Doctors from Epsom and St Helier hospitals are urging local people to take extra care this bank holiday (traditionally a very pressured time for A&E departments across the country), as figures show that last month was the busiest ever for the Trust’s A&E and urgent care centres.
During July – a month that saw temperatures rise to 38°C – more than 14,100 people sought emergency care in our hospitals, an increase of 6% on the previous month and the highest number of attendances on record.
Bank holidays are often very busy times for hospitals across the country, and although our A&E departments are open 24/7 and staffed by experts trained to deal with any situation, such large numbers of patients through the doors can mean long waits for people with more minor injuries, and can put additional pressure on the service.
With the warm weather set to return, Deputy Chief Executive and Joint Medical Director, Dr Ruth Charlton said: “Whilst I recommend everyone makes the most of the extra-long weekend, I would ask people to be extra careful and to enjoy the heat and sun safely by making sure that you stay cool and hydrated – and don't forget sunscreen.
“The majority of people who come to our A&E services are in genuine need, but if you need medical care and it’s not an emergency you may face a long wait, and there are a number of alternatives to consider that could help you avoid that.
Alternatives to A&E over the weekend include:
Seek advice from NHS 111 – the non-emergency number for the NHS. It’s fast, easy and free. Call 111 and speak to a highly trained adviser, supported by healthcare professionals. They will ask you a series of questions to assess your symptoms and immediately direct you to the most suitable medical care.
GP out-of-hours – you can still call your GP outside normal surgery hours, but you will usually be directed to an out-of-hours service. The out-of-hours period is 6.30pm to 8am on weekdays, and all day at weekends and on bank holidays.
NHS walk-in centres and minor injury units, which deal with minor injuries and illnesses, such as infections and rashes, blood pressure checks and lacerations.
However, if you experience a genuine life-threatening emergency, such as loss of consciousness, acute confused state, fits that are not stopping or persistent chest pain, please call 999 immediately.
And although measures have been taken to make sure the hospitals can keep up with the demand of the busy bank holiday, plans are also being made for the long term. Ruth said: “As our hospitals become busier and busier every year, we have had to consider how best we can keep up with the demands on our services for generations to come – that’s why we have proposed a plan to build a brand new hospital facility for our very sickest patients on one of our three sites, while most patients (85% in fact) will see no change to where they are cared for. This will mean consolidated care for our sickest patients, reduced waiting times for people with urgent but not life threatening conditions and injuries, and an acute facility that is fit for 21st century healthcare.”
For more information about the long term future of Epsom and St Helier hospitals and to keep up with all of the latest news and developments, visit improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk.