Dozens more people have been attending the Accident and Emergency unit at the Conquest Hospital at the start of the new year as the NHS faces ‘unprecedented’ demand.
Attendance at A&E in the first five days of 2015 was up 13 per cent on the same period last year with many complaining of breathing problems.
The numbers calling 999 during January 3-4 were up by 29 per cent on the equivalent weekend in 2014. Out-of-hours GP services across the county have also been extremely busy, according to East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. In the first five days of the year 1,171 visited the trust’s two emergency departments at the Conquest and DGH in Eastbourne compared with 1,023 last year. The NHS is stressing the importance of the public using the NHS 111 helpline, walk-in clinics, local GPs and pharmacists as a first point of call for non-emergency conditions. At both hospitals the trust has opened up additional bed capacity to cope with the demand, increased community provision and is working with Adult Social Care to put interim packages of care in place to help get some patients discharged sooner.
Dr Roger Elias, a Bexhill GP and chairman of Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “A&E and 999 are for emergencies. If it’s not an emergency, other services are available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We know that one in three visits to A&E could be dealt with outside of hospital. People often think that visiting their local A&E or calling 999 is their only option when their GP surgery is closed, but this is not the case. There are lots of services that offer treatment and advice in the evenings and at the weekend, including local pharmacists, walk-in centres, NHS 111 and out-of-hours GP services.”
Dr David Hughes, medical director (governance) at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Over the past few days we have seen unprecedented pressures on our services particularly in the Emergency Departments and those needing urgent admission. We need to make sure our hospital beds are saved for those who need them most. Due to the pressures we are facing we are appealing to the public to think carefully about whether they need to visit A&E. You can really help us by taking the appropriate action to treat your condition, which might mean contacting your GP or attending a pharmacy, walk-in centre, Minor Injuries Unit or ringing NHS 111. Better use of all the available services will help to ensure that we are able to treat those patients whose need is greatest. Our staff are working extremely hard to maintain these services and are to be commended during this difficult time.”