Soaring demand for under-pressure casualty services have led hospital bosses to urge patients not to use them unless absolutely necessary.
More than 13,000 people visited the Northern General Hospital’s accident and emergency unit in Fir Vale in October – 400 more than at the same time last year. And with emergency demand expected to grow over the winter months, hospital bosses today appealed for people who do not have ‘genuine, life-threatening emergencies’ to stay away from A&E.
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It comes as a survey claimed nearly one in five people in Sheffield have chosen to go to A&E rather than waiting for a GP appointment, with almost half of those interviewed saying it is ‘difficult’ or ‘impossible’ to get in at their local surgeries.
Ellen Ryabov, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals chief operating officer, said: “Our staff do a sterling job in coping with the increase in demand for emergency care during the winter months.
“This year we are seeing another rise in demand. For example, in October, 400 more patients attended A&E than last October.
“A&E is absolutely the most appropriate place for patients suffering urgent, life-threatening emergencies, but if your injury or illness is not urgent, help our staff by choosing a more appropriate option for care.
“By doing this we can concentrate our efforts on patients in most urgent need. Your GP, pharmacist or the Walk-In Centre on Broad Lane in the city centre can all offer advice and treatment, and often more quickly than A&E, because urgent patients will take priority.”
It follows research commissioned by the Daisy Group, which advises GP practices on efficiency improvements, which found 18 per cent of people from the city had chosen to go to hospital with a medical complaint, instead of to an appointment at their surgery.
Nearly half of city patients quizzed for the study said it is ‘difficult’ or ‘almost impossible’ to get an appointment at their local practice.
Christine O’Connor, from the Daisy Group, said: “Ongoing issues with shortages of family doctors and an ageing population means GP surgeries are being asked to do more with less, and patients are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation.”
However, the NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group said the research ‘contradicts local evidence’.
Dr Zak McMurray, NHS Sheffield CCG medical director, said: “There are many health services available for less serious conditions and injuries and we urge people to use them.
“A lot of common and minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, sore throats and upset stomachs can be treated at home, through over-the -counter medicine and rest.”
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