‘Unprecedented demand’ at Colchester A&E as Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals also face high patient numbers

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Health chiefs are again urging patients to consider alternative treatment options as a warning has been issued over ‘unprecedented levels of demand’ for Accident and Emergency (A&E) and GP services.

The North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (NEE CCG) has said health services in the area are currently experiencing significant pressure, with clinicians at Colchester General Hospital’s A&E saying they have many more patients than they have space for.

As a result patients with minor illnesses or non-life threatening conditions are being reminded of other options for treatment – such as calling the NHS 111 number, pharmacies, the Minor Injury Units in Clacton and Harwich or the Walk in Centre in Colchester.

Yesterday (Wednesday, December 27), Colchester General Hospital’s emergency department saw 260 patients, of which 104 were admitted. This compares to 237 A&E attendances on December 27 2016.

Ipswich Hospital’s emergency department saw 238 people, of which 75 were admitted, compared to 281 attendances on the same date last year.

Meanwhile, West Suffolk Hospital said it was regularly seeing 225 patients a day compared to an average this quarter of 195 daily.

A NEE CCG spokesman said: “Our local system is under serious pressure at the moment.

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“The priority is being given to those patients with urgent life-threatening injuries and illnesses. If you attend A&E with a minor illness, you are likely to face an extremely long wait as the department’s main focus will be given to those people with a serious life-threatening injury or illness.

“Please consider the alternative options before attending A&E.”

A spokesman for Ipswich and Colchester hospitals added: “We are very busy and we are seeing a lot of people who are very unwell.

“Our message to everyone is thank you for your support, but please choose the right services and only come to the Emergency Department as an emergency. Please think about pharmacies, GPs and the 111 number, especially coming up to a three-day weekend.”

Helen Beck, chief operating officer at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: “Like many trusts, we are facing an increase in demand over the winter months.

“This is a significant and sustained increase in demand compared to the same period last year. We’re very grateful to all our staff, who are working incredibly hard and are continuously pulling out all the stops to provide care to people.”

The NEE CCG added additional GP appointments this festive period following feedback from patients.

Pharmacy opening times in north Essex over the festive period.

The East of England Ambulance Service is also asking people to use 999 wisely after a spike in emergency calls, including 4,200 calls on Boxing Day.

The Minor Injury Units and Walk in Centre can assess and treat cuts, sprains, minor burns, minor dislocations of the fingers and toes, minor eye injuries and remove foreign bodies from, for example, ears and noses.

The Walk in Centre, in Turner Road, Colchester, is open 7am-10pm every day, including bank holidays.

Clacton’s Minor Injury Unit, at the hospital in Tower Road, is open from 9am-9pm – while the Harwich unit, at the Fryatt Hospital in Main Road is open weekdays from 9am-5pm.

For dental emergencies, patients should contact their own dentist first, or out of hours call 111.

Anyone needing mental health support should call the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust if already under the trust’s care in Colchester or Tendring, on 0300 726 1800. Alternatively, you can start access to counselling services on the NHS directly through Health in Mind by calling 0300 330 5455, or speak to the Samaritans at any time by dialling 116 123 or Samaritans Colchester on 01206 561234.

For young people (up to 18 years) experiencing emotional and wellbeing or mental health problems, or any parent or guardian, can access the Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Service (EWMHS) on 0300 300 1600 9am-5pm weekdays, or for out of hours and the weekend Crisis Support Service, call 0300 555 1201.

Further healthcare advice from the NHS.