Across Wales, health boards and the Welsh Ambulance Service are seeing a return of pre-lockdown behaviour and demand for services.
In anticipation of what will be a uniquely challenging winter with the added effects of COVID-19, people are being asked to help protect vital services for those in most need by accessing alternative services rather than their Emergency Department when their complaint is neither life-threatening nor serious.
Welsh health boards are reporting that around 20 to 30% of patients who present at Emergency Departments could be better treated elsewhere or in a different way.
As part of the Protect the NHS drive, people are being advised to order prescriptions 7 days before they’re due; use their local NHS pharmacy and GP service for minor illnesses or injuries, visit the 111 / NHS Direct Wales website or phone them for free health advice through online symptom checkers for minor ailments.
People should still attend hospitals when asked to do so to continue or review their treatment. Hospitals have taken a range of appropriate measures to keep people safe, including treating people with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 in separate areas to those who do not have the virus to prevent the risk of it spreading.
People are also reminded that if they have COVID symptoms not go to their pharmacy, GP or local Emergency Department, but instead book a test through 119 and call 111 if symptoms persist or they can no longer cope at home.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“It is imperative our Emergency Departments and emergency ambulances are kept for those who are in a life-threatening or serious condition. Even more so now our EDs have reduced space to ensure social distancing, not just for patients but for staff also.
“If someone has a health complaint that is worrying them and won’t go away, they can contact their pharmacy, opticians, contact the 111 website or phone service, local surgery or health centre to be assessed. Please save our Emergency Departments for those with serious complaints such as severe bleeding and burns, strokes or loss of consciousness.
“During the pandemic the people of Wales were exceptional at protecting these vital services by accessing 111 or NHS Direct Wales and we need to move back to this way of thinking.
“To say coronavirus has not gone away is an understatement. We all need to remember that our NHS staff and services are still under huge pressure. That’s why it is even more important this year than ever that we can all do our bit by helping us to help you to access the right service, at the right time, to protect the NHS.”
Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service Jason Killens said:
“With winter fast approaching and an apparent second wave of COVID-19 underway, it’s more important than ever that people make sensible decisions when accessing the NHS. As an ambulance service, we’ve seen a rapid return to pre-lockdown demand levels over the last couple of weeks, so we need the public to do their bit to reduce pressure on the emergency services. Our ambulance service exists to help people who are seriously ill or injured or whose life is in imminent danger.
“We need to reserve our precious resources for them, which one day might be you, your child, your parent, your spouse or your friend. If it’s not urgent or life-threatening, there are many, many alternatives to 999 that you can access. By doing this, you’re protecting yourselves, others and the NHS.”
Welsh residents are also urged to continue to keep Wales safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by:
- Always keeping a distance
- Washing hands regularly
- Working from home wherever possible
- Following local restrictions
- Following the rules about meeting people
- Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms