Patients urged to chose the right service

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The NHS is appealing to people not to go to A&E this winter unless they genuinely have a very serious or life-threatening health problem. The Choose Well campaign encourages people to find a more appropriate service for minor injuries and ailments. In particular, it focuses on providing information to: families with young children, young people aged 15-24, people with long-term conditions. For more info, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.

Every year, hospitals report the number of people using A&E inappropriately is increasing – and costing millions of pounds – when there are more suitable health services available.

The Choose Well campaign aims to encourage people to find a more appropriate service for minor injuries and ailments. In particular, the campaign will focus on providing information to: families with young children, young people aged 15–24, and people with long-term conditions such as diabetes or respiratory problems.

Research by hospitals around the country shows that these groups are “frequent flyers” at A&E departments when they could have been treated elsewhere. The campaign aims to make sure they know where the alternative health services are and persuade them to use those services instead.

Nationally, more than one in 10 people admit to using A&E when they knew they didn’t need to. A&E attendance from June, 2011, to May, 2012, was more thab 17.6million people – so that is more than two million attendances that were inappropriate.

Dr Paul Stillman, a GP and member of the National Self Care Forum which is supporting the Choose Well campaign, said: “We know that over the winter the number of serious and life-threatening cases increases if the temperature falls below 12 degrees Celsius. What we don’t need at such a busy time is people calling 999, turning up at A&E or going to their GP when they don’t need to be there.

“We are supporting the campaign, together with the Royal College of GPs and the National Pharmacy Association to try and get this important message across.”

The Choose Well campaign asks the public to think about how serious their health problem is and then choose the right service: For very minor problems such as a hangover, indigestion, or a grazed knee, people should self-care; For minor infections, coughs and colds, advice can be given by local pharmacies; For ailments such as stomach pain and vomiting, a persistent cough or ear pain call your GP surgery, visit your local walk-in centre or your minor injuries unit. Details can be found at www.nhs.uk

For those not sure which service to choose, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.