Suffolk: NHS retracts frank message to patients

NHS Suffolk has removed a bluntly-worded online message advising patients not to visit A&E over the Bank Holiday weekend unless they think they are dying.

The primary care trust admitted the language used on its website was less than tactful but were last night standing by the intended sentiment of the message.

According to a spokeswoman, NHS Suffolk had received no complaints from patients or web users about the notice, which read: “Do you seriously think you’re dying? If the answer is no, then it’s likely you shouldn’t be at A&E.”

The decision was nevertheless taken to remove the message due to its unsuitably blunt delivery.

The message went on to more precisely advise that: “Ahead of the August Bank Holiday weekend, NHS Suffolk is reminding people that the A&E department of their local hospital is only a place to go for emergencies that could have life-threatening consequences.”

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A spokeswoman said the message had been intended to encourage patients not to misuse the already stretched A&E service. She added: “We stand by the sentiment that A&E is for emergencies.

“If people think they need to see a GP urgently, they should ring their surgery and they will be diverted to the out-of-hours service. Pharmacies are also open and can offer good advice and over-the-counter treatment. “On top of that there is the NHS Direct advice and information service.

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“The language of the message was too blunt and it has been removed but some people do use A&E inappropriately. There is rising demand across the region and we are trying to push the message that there are other ways.

“If someone has been suffering with a bad back for six weeks, the bank holiday is not a good time to go to A&E with it.”

NHS Suffolk has in the past advised patients in the lead up to public holidays that non-emergencies should be treated by contacting a pharmacist or GP and by ensuring medicine cupboards were well stocked.

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