Public urged to keep A&E for those who need critical care

NHS Lanarkshire is urging the public to access the right care at the right place as it continues to face unprecedented pressures on A&E.

Last week, NHS Lanarkshire highlighted the continued pressure on health and care services as a result of increased Covid-19 cases, trying to maintain and recover services and a shortage of staff due to annual leave or those having to self-isolate.

As well as the above factors, NHS Lanarkshire is experiencing sustained pressure on A&E with many patients attending for conditions such as back pain and insect bites that could be improved or treated by simple measures taken at home, or, if necessary, with advice from NHS Inform/111 or treatment from your local pharmacy or GP practice.

In this past year, community pharmacies have undertaken over 1.5 million NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service consultations which offers easy access to healthcare advice and treatment in people’s local communities by making use of the skills and knowledge of the community pharmacy team in managing minor ailments and common clinical conditions.

Calvin Lightbody, A&E consultant at University Hospital Hairmyres, highlights the pressures currently faced at the three acute sites across Lanarkshire and reminds the public to keep A&E for those who need critical care.

“Over the last few weeks, our A&E departments have been as busy as any time I can remember in recent years with numbers extremely high for a sustained period. We had nearly 700 patients in a single day last week across the three hospitals.

“We are seeing a number of seriously ill and critically ill patients with urgent issues such as chest pain, strokes and serious bleeding. However, we are also seeing a number of conditions that would be best treated elsewhere, such as long-standing back pain, sore feet, minor rashes, earache and insect bites.

“These issues shouldn’t be in A&E in the first place. Our A&E department is for those who have a life-threatening emergency. If you think you need to attend A&E but it’s not life-threatening, you should consider the alternatives.

“You can call NHS 24 on 111 day or night, where you will be directed to the right NHS service. If you just need health care advice, then please use the NHS Inform website.

“I would like to reassure the public that while our A&E departments are extremely busy, we are still very much open for business for those who do have an emergency condition.”

As of today (Thursday 15 July), there are 80 Covid-19 cases across NHS Lanarkshire’s three acute sites, with 7 people in ICU. As a result of the aforementioned pressures on services, further planned surgeries have been cancelled.

Judith Park, NHS Lanarkshire director of acute services, said: “Unfortunately, we have had to cancel a small number of planned surgeries at University Hospital Wishaw and University Hospital Hairmyres over the last couple of weeks. This is not a decision we take lightly and I would like to apologise for any upset caused.”

This week six orthopaedic inpatients and four urology day cases have been cancelled at University Hospital Hairmyres.

Judith added: “We are seeing higher numbers than we would normally see during the winter period and our staff are struggling to cope. All our staff continue to work extremely hard to ensure that patients are seen and treated as quickly as possible. NHS Lanarkshire continues to provide alternative services so patients can receive care out-with hospital wherever appropriate.

“By getting the right care at the right place we can make sure A&E services are there for those who need it.”

NHS Lanarkshire is also asking those to attend A&E on their own.

Judith said: “Limiting the amount of people waiting in our emergency department helps ensure the safety of our patients. We are asking people to attend alone. Only in exceptional circumstances will anyone be allowed to accompany the patient.

“We understand that this can be distressing and frustrating for some patients but we would like to take the opportunity to remind the public that it’s not appropriate to display abusive behaviour and language to our staff.

“The majority continue to be very supportive of staff. Sadly, however, a minority of people have been engaging in behaviours and attitudes that are completely unacceptable.

“Any form of violent or aggressive behaviour towards our staff, be it verbal or physical, will not be tolerated. We’d plea to people to keep bearing with us and please be kind to our staff and colleagues who are committed to caring, no matter the circumstances.”

Calvin added: “Maintaining physical distancing measures means we are currently limited to 12 seats in our waiting rooms at Hairmyres, where previously we would have been able to accommodate around 30.”

Photo: Calvin Lightbody outside University Hospital Hairmyres A&E