Understanding Accident and Emergency Services and the new 111 Service
A & E departments, sometimes called casualty or emergency departments, are hospital units where the public can attend without an appointment, for accidents, emergencies and other very urgent medical conditions which may require the facilities and expertise of highly skilled hospital teams.
Examples where it is right and appropriate to attend A & E without delay include:
Major injuries such as injuries from road traffic accidents / Falls from a considerable height / Major head injuries / Collapse / Severe breathing difficulty / Severe chest pain / Severe haemorrhage / Poisoning / Extensive burns
There is absolutely no doubt that someone who is seriously injured or collapsed needs to attend A & E and may well also require pre-hospital care from the Ambulance Service.
What sorts of conditions are not appropriate for A&E departments?
Unfortunately many people attend A & E with very minor problems. This makes it difficult for A & E staff to deal with the volume of cases, involves delays for patients and incurs considerable costs.
The following are examples of minor problems for which A & E attendance is not appropriate:
Flu-like illnesses / coughs / earache / back ache / sore throats / minor breathlessness or wheezing / abdominal pain (unless extreme or associated with collapse) / urinary difficulties (unless completely unable to pass water) / vaginal bleeding (unless very heavy and associated with faintness) / rashes (unless it appears like spontaneous bleeding under the skin or the person is very unwell) / backache / diarrhoea and vomiting /simple bites and stings / social problems / emergency contraception / dental problems (except major trauma)
Such conditions can generally be safely managed by a GP, Practice Nurse, or Pharmacist and sometimes by the individual themselves.
Disadvantages to attending A & E if not essential
People who attend A & E with non-serious conditions risk overloading the services that are primarily intended for delivering emergency care for people who are critically ill. We should all remember that “one day it could be us” who need that life-saving care. They are also likely to wait a long time for treatment.
What alternatives are there to attending A & E?
Our Practice provide comprehensive services between 8.30 am and 6.30 pm Monday to Friday. For urgent problems - patients will either be offered an emergency appointment or entered onto the triage list for a GP / Advanced Nurse Practitioner or Practice Nurse to call you back. We now have Minor Illness appointments - please see NEW SERVICE - MINOR ILLNESS CLINCS
Local pharmacies provide a minor ailment service, where you can obtain information and treatment for the following conditions:
Athletes foot / Back pain / Chicken pox / Cold sores / Colds & Flu / Constipation / Coughs / Diarrhoea / Dry skin / eczema & Dermatitis / Dyspepsia / Earache / Ear wax removal / Haemorrhoids / Hay fever & allergies / Headaches / Head lice / Insect bites / Nappy rash / Soft tissue injury / sore throat / Teething & mouth ulcers / Temperature / Threadworm / Vaginal Thrush
What to do when practices are closed during the evenings, weekends and bank holidays:
Walk in Centre - There is a walk in centre at Parsonage Street, West Bromwich B71 4DC (near Sandwell Hospital) The centre is open from 8.00 am until 10.00 pm, 7 days a week.
Out of Hours Service for urgent medical problems which cannot wait until the practice is open. By calling the Surgery, you will be transferred directly to this service.
When to use the new 111 service
If you need medical help fast but it’s not a life-threatening situation, you can now call the new NHS 111 number, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
• if you think you need to go to hospital
• don’t know who to call for medical help
• need medical advice or reassurance about what to do next
When you call 111, a trained adviser will ask you questions to find out what’s wrong, give you medical advice and direct you to someone who can help you, like an out-of-hour doctor or a community nurse. If the adviser thinks your condition is more serious, they will direct you to hospitial or send an ambulance. If you don’t speak English, tell the adviser what language you want to speak and they will get you an interpreter. The call is free, from landlines and mobiles.
For health needs that are not urgent, you should call your GP. If a health professional has given you a number to call for a particular condition, you should continue to use that number.
Some will say “I pay my taxes and it was urgent to me”, but we all have a responsibility to make best use of limited resources and help protect our NHS. Money spent on non-essential A & E attendance means less money to spend on other services or developing new ones.
You should only call 999 in an emergency – for example, when someone’s life is at risk or someone is seriously injured or critically ill.