'Think before going to A&E' - plea to patients as medics battle busy night
PUBLISHED: 13:28 31 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:10 01 January 2020
Hospital bosses are urging people considering visiting over-stretched A&E departments to ask themselves if they really need emergency care.
East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) made the plea after hospitals in Ipswich and Colchester were left buckling under the strain.
On Monday December 30 ESNEFT chief executive Nick Hulme tweeted that patients should only use A&E if "absolutely necessary" after high demand in both hospitals.
He said: "It is important to make sure we keep our emergency department available for the people who really need it.
"We are still sadly seeing a lot of people using A&E as a primary care service instead of going to their local pharmacy, calling 111 or going to their GP."
Mr Hulme said patients are arriving with minor injuries and illnesses which could be managed themselves or treated alternatively.
"The numbers we're seeing are very high, but it's the degree of illness and acuity of patients which is something I've not seen in my career in the NHS - people are living longer, but not necessarily healthier, lives," he said.
Mr Hulme said the Heath Road site in Ipswich was the busiest it had been in decades, with figures showing 271 people attended A&E on Monday December 30.
Whilst the average of attendees for this time is 260, services can become over-stretched due to the nature of the issues patients present - not necessarily the number of patients.
Jan Ingle, deputy director for communications at ESNEFT, said the number of patients on Monday evening requiring treatment had been "exceptional".
"We saw very large numbers of people who needed urgent and emergency care," she said.
"It's only when its very challenging we feel the need to underline the message and Monday was one of them.
"It isn't always about being busy, the nature of the issues which bring people in have a range of complexities and it's those complexities which cause pressure."
Mrs Ingle said the weeks going into January after bank holidays often saw an increase and she said people should ask themselves if an A&E visit was appropriate.
"We like to often encourage people to take care of themselves well and think about going to the GP first or calling 101," she said.