A&E should only be for the genuine emergencies

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another winter, a cold spell only just arrived, and already there are fears about the ability of Portsmouth’s superhospital to cope with what we have learned to call ‘winter pressures’.

These pressures are, quite simply, large numbers of patients, often elderly, and you would think it would be a fairly simple task to prepare for the spike in patients coming in. However, it just isn’t as easy as that.

First of all though, we sympathise with 80-year-old Maureen Blackford and her family. Mrs Blackford fell down the stairs at home and hurt her head. She went to her doctor’s surgery, only for the surgery to call an ambulance to take her to QA. Now, nobody has done anything wrong in this instance, and yet poor Mrs Blackford was left in an ambulance outside QA for more than five hours as she waited to be seen.

Her family, understandably, want people to complain loudly to and about the management. This may indeed get the message through, and it is good that those who make executive decisions at the hospital learn what the experience is for those at the sharp end.

But, while we recognise that winter is a busier time than the warmer months, we would also reiterate the message to those who go to A&E rather than book an appointment with a GP or head to a walk-in centre: please don’t.

The News has reported before the breakdown of reasons why people attend A&E – and the majority of patients simply did not need to be there. Yes, it may be convenient if you live in that part of the city. Yes, it may take a lot of hanging on the phone to get a doctor’s appointment. And yes, parking at the walk-in centre at St Mary’s Hospital can be tricky.

But the next time anyone is tempted to go to A&E for a non-emergency, please remember Mrs Blackford’s case. She did not deserve to be stuck in an ambulance for so long, and while the managers at QA deserve some flak for these queues, so do those who unnecessarily cause them. Everyone needs to take some responsibility to get us through a cold winter.