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What to do this winter when feeling ill to help overstretched hospital A&E wards – Make The Right Call campaign

07:00 11 December 2015

Ipswich Hospital on Heath Road, Ipswich.

Ipswich Hospital on Heath Road, Ipswich.

Archant

This winter, we have relaunched our Make The Right Call campaign to help relieve pressure on the region’s hospital’s emergency departments.

Health chiefs have pledged their support to the campaign which aims to direct people towards the right healthcare provider, whether it is a GP, pharmacy, NHS 111 or A&E, to get the fastest treatment in the most appropriate location.

Last winter, Ipswich Hospital failed for six consecutive weeks to hit the government’s target of seeing 95% of A&E patients within four hours amid a period of “unprecedented demand” as the NHS suffered a winter crisis nationwide.

At the time, Nick Hulme, the hospital’s chief executive, criticised a “massive increase in people not using A&E appropriately”.

At a NHS winter media briefing, Barbara Buckley, medical director at Ipswich Hospital, stressed the importance of people seeking the right medical help.

She said: “It is important people use the right level of help and we are encouraging people to do what you can to look after yourselves and help your neighbours and elderly relatives as it is so easy to care for each other.

“When primary care is introduced, make appointments and keep appointments, and also use Suffolk GP+ and the NHS 111 out-of-hours services, so that you only come to A&E when you absolutely need to. Don’t come if you’ve had a problem for three weeks. It’s surprising how many people will do that. A&E is the wrong environment for some people.

“We don’t want to stop people coming to A&E who really need to be seen.”

She said the hospital has met the government’s A&E waiting times target for the last eight quarters, but admitted last winter was a “real struggle”.

She said: “We don’t want patients sitting around longer than they need to be. It is distressful seeing people lose contact with life, and for hospitals to work efficiently, we need the whole system working, which also includes ambulances.”

How to Make The Right Call:

- Be prepared – stock up with cold remedies, pain killers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, stave off upset stomachs with anti-diarrhoea and rehydration mixtures, and keep plasters and bandages on hand for any cuts or scrapes.

- Get a flu vaccination – it will keep you from having a long recovery from this nasty illness, so book an appointment to get one if you haven’t already. People aged 65 or over, or have a long-term health condition or are pregnant are entitled to a free jab

- Seek help from your pharmacist – they’re qualified health professionals who can advise on everything from a cold to long-term conditions. This is often the best and quickest way to get well. Your pharmacist will let you know if a GP appointment is required. Pharmacies are one of the most accessible sources of advice, with many open long hours incl. evenings and weekends. Some pharmacies are open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

- Eat well and drink at least eight cups of fluids a day - it keeps your brain and body working well.

- Wash your hands thoroughly – for the time it takes you to sing happy birthday through twice, use hot water and soap to wash away all kinds of viruses from colds and diarrhoea to so much more.

- Keep your home warm – By setting your heating to the right temperature (between 18° - 21°C or 64°- 70°F) you can keep you well, especially avoiding chest infections. If you have a disability, are over 65 or live with children aged under 5 ring this local rate number for free advice on heating your home. 03456 037 686

- If you have very recently visited your surgery, optician or dentist, and have concerns relating to the same condition which they have treated you for, ask for their help first instead of attending A&E.

- If you are unsure if you need urgent or emergency care, please call NHS 111 – trained professionals are on hand to guide you.

- Beat the winter blues - talk to someone. Talk about your anxieties with someone else, a friend, relative or a group such as the Samaritans. Talking about the things that are worrying you can make a big difference. It is easy to get help from the Suffolk Wellbeing Service too. It is a free NHS service, suitable for people aged 16 + living in Suffolk. You can phone us on 0300 123 1781 or refer yourself via our website www.readytochange.org.uk.

- Be active - Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on mental as well as physical health. A small amount of activity is better than none. You do not need to go to the gym, a simple walk or exercising to a DVD will make you feel more energised and boost your mood.

Sit back and relax: Take some time to yourself. Some simple breathing exercises can help or just 10-15 minutes away from everything reading a book, going for a walk or having a bath.

A good night’s sleep: Better quality sleep can be achieved by keeping to a regular sleep routine, consuming less alcohol, exercising and relaxing before bedtime.

Lesley Standring, integration lead in medicine at West Suffolk Hospital, also supported the campaign. She said: “We don’t want patients sitting on trolleys for more than four hours – we want to always meet the government’s 95% target (of treating A&E patients in four hours).

“We want to get in the right patients and see them in a timely way. We don’t want the place to be full of people who don’t need to be there, as it means sick patients have to wait longer.

“People can use GP Plus, which is a bookable appointment, and check during bank holidays and at weekends to see if your GP surgery is open. They often are on a Saturday.”

It has been warned nationally that the health service will struggle to cope over winter because of high bed occupancy rates and a lack of funding.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We gave the NHS £400 million more to help prepare for winter earlier than ever this year and our hospitals are coping well under pressure, with the vast majority of patients being seen within the four-hour A&E target.

“We are committed to the values of the NHS, which is why we are giving the service an extra £3.8 billion for next year on the back of a strong economy.”

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