A GROUP of health practices is trying to ease the burden on West Suffolk Hospital’s A&E department by encouraging residents with minor injuries and illnesses to use other services.
The West Suffolk Commissioning Federation says services such as NHS Direct, pharmacies and GP surgeries are better equipped to deal with minor conditions which are taking up potentially life-saving time at the department.
Last year, 36 per cent of visits to A&E were for minor illnesses or injuries with 33 per cent, equivalent to one in three people, so far this year.
Dr Emma Derbyshire, who is a GP at Swan Surgery, in Bury, and interim clinical lead at the federation, which includes 25 practices and commissions services for West Suffolk, said: “A&E needs to spend more time on the seriously ill and we can take the pressure off them.”
She said there were a number of steps that could be followed as part of the NHS Choose Well campaign, starting with self care and people keeping their medicine cabinets well stocked.
Advice and information could also be provided at local pharmacies and by calling or logging on to NHS Direct.
The next step was to contact their GP surgery for an appointment.
Dr Derbyshire said: “Those patients can be seen the same day by a GP or healthcare professional within their own surgery.
“It’s about making it a more efficient service and improving the quality of the service for patients rather than waiting four hours in A&E and getting a simple treatment.”
The move has been backed by A&E staff.
Dr Alain Sauvage, lead consultant in emergency medicine, said: “People make the mistake and have the idea that we predominantly see minor injuries and illnesses. That isn’t the right idea. We have teams who are skilled in treating very sick and ill people and it becomes quite difficult to achieve the quality we would like if people attend with problems that are better dealt with by their GP or alternative agencies.”