Call to use NHS services wisely following busiest ever day at Southmead Emergency Department

  • 06 July 2018


Health leaders are urging local people to use NHS services wisely over the coming weekend, following a surge in attendances at the city’s hospitals.

The summer months often see an increase in people attending A&E with minor injuries and heat-related conditions that could be treated more effectively elsewhere such as at a Minor Injuries Unit or pharmacist.

Southmead Hospital’s Emergency Department saw one of its busiest weekends last week and with the ongoing heatwave and city events such as the St Paul’s Carnival due to bring thousands of visitors to Bristol, hospital doctors and GPs are reminding people to check their options for minor injuries or illnesses, and use A&E for serious and life-threatening emergencies only.

Dr Lesley Ward, local GP and Clinical Lead for Unplanned Care at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This weekend promises to be a fantastic time with wonderful weather forecast and some really great events taking place including England playing in the quarter final of the World Cup and the famous St Paul’s Carnival in Bristol.

“We hope that people have an enjoyable time without any illness or injury but if you do need to seek medical advice for any reason, please take a minute to check your options and make sure you’re using the right service for your needs.

“Our A&E units across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are coping well and will still offer excellent emergency care quickly for those who really need it. However, they remain under pressure after one of our busiest ever weekends. You can help to relieve the pressure by using alternatives such as Minor Injuries Units and pharmacists for non-emergency conditions.

If you’re not sure which service to use or what’s available over the weekend, just call NHS 111, at any time, for help.You can also help yourself to stay well in the first place by keeping hydrated and drinking alcohol in moderation.

Lead Emergency Department Consultant at North Bristol NHS Trust, Leilah Dare, said: “Patients have been coming to us for a variety of reasons and some of these have been linked to the recent hot weather.

“We want everyone to enjoy the sunshine and the summer activities but please do take care of yourself in the heat: stay hydrated, don’t drink too much alcohol and remember to wear sun protection or cover up. If you feel unwell after sitting in the sun go inside into a cool room and drink some water.

“If you have a healthcare complaint that has been ongoing for several weeks, or are considering visiting A&E after work because it is a convenient time, the likelihood is that you don’t need the services of the emergency team and we would ask you to visit a more appropriate healthcare provider, such as your local pharmacist, GP or out of hours service. Other services will also usually see you much more quickly than A&E when it’s not an emergency.”

Emma Redfern, consultant in the adult emergency department at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, said: “This weekend looks set to be very hot and sunny so please ensure you stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.

“With the forecast for great weather and a number of events taking place, our emergency department is likely to be very busy. Please think carefully about alternative local services." 

Many conditions can be seen much more quickly using alternative services and emergency departments should only be used for the most serious injuries and illnesses.

Minor Injuries Units are there to help with injuries that need attention urgently but are not critical or life threatening – such as:

  • Sprains, strains, cuts and grazes
  • Arm, foot and leg injuries
  • Bites, minor burns and scalds
  • Broken bones
  • Minor head injuries
  • Eye problems such as scratches and foreign bodies in the eye.

An NHS Walk in Centre is also available at Broadmead Medical Centre in Boots in Bristol. 

South Bristol Urgent Care Centre is available at South Bristol NHS Community Hospital.

Walk in Centres and Urgent Care Centres are able to treat:

  • blood pressure checks
  • contraceptive advice
  • coughs, colds and flu-like symptoms
  • minor cuts and wounds
  • muscle and joint injuries
  • skin complaints
  • stomach ache, indigestion, constipation, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • treatment of minor infections.

Pharmacists provide confidential, expert advice and treatment for a range of common conditions and will be able to help you decide if you need to see a GP or other health service. Pharmacists can:

  • dispense medicine on prescription
  • dispense repeat prescriptions without the need to visit your GP
  • give advice on treating common ailments like coughs and colds
  • help you manage long-term conditions such as diabetes and asthma
  • give advice on medication, including if you're taking medicine for lots of different conditions
  • give advice on staying healthy
  • give sexual health and contraception advice
  • provide treatments for common ailments like head lice and athlete's foot.

NHS 111 is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year and is free to call from your landline or mobile phone. Call 111 if:

  • you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency.
  • You think you need to go to A&E or need another NHS urgent care service, such as minor injuries unit or the out-of-hours GP.
  • you don't know who to call or you don't have a GP to call.
  • you need health or medical information, or reassurance about what to do next.

If you need to see a GP outside normal surgery hours because you have an urgent medical need that can't wait until your surgery re-opens, you can call NHS 111 for assistance. If required, they will direct you to the out-of-hours urgent care GP service.