A nicely healed cut with a scab on it, a sore throat, and toothache are just some of the conditions that have been seen at Peterborough and Cambridgeshire’s accident and emergency departments in the past few months and, as winter approaches, NHS health chiefs are reminding residents to use the right NHS service for their problem.
Peterborough City Hospital and Hinchingbrooke Hospital has seen various injuries and conditions at their A&E department that could have been treated elsewhere within the NHS - by a GP or a pharmacy. The top 10 worst offending minor conditions seen at A&E recently are:
1. five day old wound with a scab, healing nicely
3. back pain for two months
4. child with sore throat
6. run out of usual medication
Dr Gary Howsam, Clinical Chair of the Governing Body at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, said, “There’s really no excuse for people going to the emergency department, somewhere designed to treat local people in an emergency or life-threatening situation, with such minor problems. Most of the problems could be treated at home with medicines that can be bought over the counter from a pharmacy.
"Pharmacists can give advice about how to treat minor illnesses and ailments. If you are unsure about who you should seek help from, you can call NHS 111 who will direct you to the appropriate service. You can also access advice from your GP surgery team - you might not need to see the team for a face-to-face appointment, as they can give you advice over the phone. If your GP practice is closed, then call NHS 111 for an out-of-hours doctor.
“As we move into winter it is really important that the emergency departments’ teams are only seeing those people who need the specialist skills of the doctors and nurses working there. It is critical that they are not pulled away from looking after seriously unwell people, because the department is full of people who could be seen more appropriately elsewhere.”
Dr Kanchan Rege, Medical Director at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, said: “At this time of year and throughout the winter our emergency departments come under a lot of pressure as there are many more very sick patients.
“It’s better for everyone if people go straight to the right place for the care they need. In most cases that will be their local pharmacy to start with or their GP surgery. That way we can concentrate on the people who are badly injured or very poorly and save everyone else very long waits”.
Anything minor, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, splinters, shaving cuts, paper cuts, and hiccups, can all be treated at home with over-the-counter medications or a basic first aid kit. Local pharmacies are a quick and easy way to get medical help and medication, and are an underused NHS service. They can give useful advice on common ailments and can also provide emergency contraception.
GPs are expert generalists and can advise and treat a variety of problems. Anyone with a long-term problem, such as back pain or a persistent cough, should make an appointment to see their GP. Residents are urged to phone 111 to find out what’s available to them before goingt o the emergency department. Many practices now offer telephone, face-to-face, and online consultations.
NHS 111 is open 24/7, every day of the year. Whether a resident needs help with finding a nearby NHS service, or is unsure where to get medical help, calling 111 is a good starting point. It also provides the GP out-of-hours service for anyone needing a GP when their practice is closed.
There is also minor illness and injury units in Peterborough, Ely, Doddington, and Wisbech. From helping with strains, sprains, burns or scalds, any minor conditions can be treated there.