Only attend A&E in an emergency, struggling health board urges

NHS Ayrshire and Arran made the plea as emergency departments operate under 'extreme pressure'.

Only attend A&E in an emergency, struggling health board urges iStock

A health board is asking patients to think twice before heading to emergency departments as services are operating under “extreme pressure”.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran is urging people to consider whether the situation is really an emergency or whether their condition could be managed by other care services such as the GP, pharmacy or NHS24.

The health board said that a combination of staff absences, high volumes of frail and ill patients needing complex care, and delayed transfers are contributing to the problems.

Health boards across the country have struggled to deal with normal service on top of the pandemic, leading to NHS Lanarkshire moving to the highest available risk level – dubbed “Code Black” – last week, while NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on Saturday urged patients only to attend A&E if an issue was “life-threatening”.

Professor Hazel Borland, NHS Ayrshire and Arran chief executive, said: “Our urgent and unscheduled care services in both University Hospitals Ayr and Crosshouse are under extreme pressure at this time.

“This is due to a combination of staff absence across the whole health and care system, high occupancy levels in our hospitals, delayed transfers of care and high volumes of frail and ill patients requiring complex care.

“This is resulting in pressures across the whole urgent care system and can ultimately mean longer waits for telephone consultations; longer waits for assessment or reviews within primary and community care; delays to assessment in the emergency departments and combined assessment units; delays to admission to wards; and delays to discharge.

“Our dedicated staff are working tirelessly to try and improve the situation under challenging conditions. We ask for your patience and support in these matters. We continue to triage patient presentations and will prioritise our patients based on clinical need.

“While most patients coming through our emergency departments are ill and need to be there, we know that some people who attend our emergency departments would receive more appropriate and quicker treatment elsewhere.”

People are being urged to stop, think, and ask ‘Is it an emergency?’ and to come straight to A&E only if it is one.

Professor Borland said: “That way we can ensure that our emergency departments are there for those who need it most – those with life-threatening emergencies and injuries.”

The health board said that anyone who comes to the emergency department but does not need its services will be redirected to a more appropriate service which may include their GP surgery at a different time, NHS24, pharmacy, emergency dental service, pregnancy services and sexual health services.

If it is not an emergency, people are advised to call NHS 24 on 111 where they will be assessed over the telephone and referred to the right healthcare professional.

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