WITH the May Day bank holiday approaching doctors in Devon are asking people to avoid going to A&E with complaints that could have been treated elsewhere and to ensure they know where to find medical help if they need it.
Dr Tom Debenham, a GP from Devon and Board member of the Eastern Locality of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said the NHS is “usually under great pressure over Bank Holiday weekends”.
The commissioning group says that A&E departments at hospitals in Devon see roughly 300,000 patients a year who could have been treated elsewhere.
It says patients with common illnesses or ailments such as long-term back pain, gastro-related conditions and viral conditions like coughs and colds can avoid going to the emergency department by getting advice and quicker access to treatment from other local NHS services, NHS 111, local pharmacies or GP practices.
And some can take care of themselves with basic self-care, first aid and advice.
It is asking people to “know their NHS”, and choose the most appropriate service for fast and effective advice and treatment.
Dr Debenham said: “The NHS is usually under great pressure over Bank Holiday weekends and we want to make sure that people who need help in an emergency get it without any delays.
“GP surgeries will be closed on Monday, May 5 and will reopen on Tuesday, May 6 but there are a number of steps you can take if you need medical help.
“If you have an urgent medical problem that cannot wait until your surgery reopens you should call NHS 111. Your details will be taken and a clinician will ring you back to provide the appropriate advice or treatment.
“The purpose of NHS 111 is to help people to use the right urgent care service that meets their needs and to avoid using ambulances and hospital emergency departments when other services would have been able to help.
“It is a free to use service and is available 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year.
”However, in an emergency you should not hesitate to call 999 immediately or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.”
Dr Debenham also reminded people to take enough medicine with them if they were going on holiday or taking a long weekend break.
“Stock up your medicine cabinet with over the counter remedies for ailments such as headaches, stomach upsets and indigestion, including remedies for children,” he said.
“Some pharmacies are still open on Bank Holiday Monday so check their opening hours. You can usually find them on the door at the pharmacy.”