Medics have urged people who suffer from sprains and strains to contact their GP or call NHS24 instead of attending accident and emergency departments.
The plea has come after NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) recorded 158 physical A&E strains and sprain patients over the course of a week – all of whom could have been seen faster through its virtual service.
The virtual A&E service, also known as the Flow Navigation Centre (FNC), sees and treats more than 1,500 patients every month through emergency video and telephone consultations.
The service is ‘highly experienced’ in managing sprains and strains and if further treatment is required, patients are given scheduled arrival time at a minor injuries unit, helping them avoid a potentially long wait for treatment.
For the 158 sprain and strain patients who opted to go straight to a physical A&E, the average waiting time was around two hours, with one patient waiting upwards of five hours as higher priority cases took precedence.
In contrast, the average waiting time for sprains and strains patients referred to the FNC is less than one hour.
Modelling from the health board suggests upwards of 100,000 patients per year could be seen through the virtual A&E service and patients who think they need to visit an emergency department are encouraged to instead use the virtual service as their first port of call.
Dr Scott Davidson, deputy medical director for acute services at NHSGGC, said: “Every week have hundreds of patients presenting with sprains and strains at our A&Es. We understand patients may be worried or anxious about their injury, particularly if they’ve had it for a few days.
“While it might seem sensible to go straight to A&E, if their GP is unavailable, their first port of call should be to access the flow navigation centre by calling NHS24 on 111.
“The FNC team have seen thousands of strains and sprains, and the virtual A&E setup means you don’t have to come to hospital and sit in a busy waiting room. You’ll get the same level of care through the FNC, and if after your video or telephone consultation the team thinks you need a physical examination, they’ll arrange it for you at a time that suits.”
Pauline Kerray, an emergency nurse practitioner from NHSGGC’s FNC added: “When you speak to us, we’ll evaluate your injury, provide advice and we can book you in for onward treatment if necessary.
“If we think you need an X-ray, you’ll get a time to attend the nearest minor injuries unit, meaning you avoid A&E altogether. The key point to remember is to call us first before you make a trip to the hospital.”