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NHS Wales reminds people on the quickest ways to get treatment this winter

As winter approaches and demand on GPs and emergency care services rises, NHS Wales’ Chief Executive Judith Paget is reminding everyone of the different services available across Wales for quick and quality treatment.

The Welsh Government’s ‘Help us, Help You’ campaign highlights the other local services and health professionals working in NHS Wales, that are available to ensure those with urgent care needs can be treated quickly – without needing to go to their GPs or nearest emergency department.

NHS Chief Executive, Judith Paget said:

“If you’re unwell, injured or have an urgent care need, there are many ways to access the NHS in Wales instead of through emergency departments. This includes the NHS 111 Wales online and telephone service, mental health helplines, pharmacists, minor injuries units, and more.

So now it’s easier to get care, help and advice for new or existing conditions, without even leaving your home or workplace.

Our GPs and emergency care services are going to get busier as we head into the colder months and we want to ensure that people are getting the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time.

We can all play a part in reducing this pressure on our emergency care services, by considering whether we need to attend emergency departments (A&E) or the GP or if these other options might provide the best treatment option for us.”

Urgent Primary Care Centres (UPCCs) and Same Day Emergency Care Services (SDECs) are now up and running across multiple sites in Wales, as a result of the Welsh Government’s ‘Six Goals for Urgent and Emergency Care’ programme – helping to safely prevent trips to emergency departments or hospital admissions.

UPCCs treat people with urgent primary care needs on the same day, and SDECs help people access diagnostics and treatment for emergency care needs and return home on the same day.

Both UPCCs and SDECs do not operate as walk-in-clinics but can be accessed via a GP or emergency unit referral.

Approximately, 10,000 people are accessing UPCC services every month and around 14,500 people with emergency care needs, who would have otherwise needed a hospital stay, were treated, and discharged by SDECs in the last 3 months.

Rachel Lee, Clinical Board Director for Primary, Intermediate and Community Care at Barry Urgent Primary Care Centre said:

There are a number of Urgent Primary Care Centres in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan to help patients receive the right care, from the right place, first time.

 UPCCs were introduced to improve access to same day care for patients with a range of urgent non-complex conditions. Patients may be booked into a UPCC by their GP practice or redirected by NHS 111 Wales or the Emergency Unit where they will be assessed and appropriately managed within eight hours. 

More than 35,000 UPCC appointments were made available last year, helping patients access urgent same day care quicker and reducing the number of attendances to busy emergency departments.”

Expert advice and guidance is also available 24/7 via the NHS 111 Wales free helpline and website.

With 76 symptom checkers online and highly trained call handlers, the NHS 111 service can resolve a person’s care needs over the phone or direct them to the right place, to get treatment fast and fitted to their needs – which may not always be a GP or emergency department and could be a pharmacy, minor injury unit or opticians.

Around 70,000 monthly calls are made to 111, with only 11% of callers being referred to an emergency department.

People with urgent mental health needs can access a mental health professional without a traditional GP referral, via the NHS 111 Wales ‘press 2’ service. Since its launch last year, 8 in 10 callers have not needed further advice or treatment from an emergency care service – with 97% of callers reporting lower levels of distress after the call.

Judith Paget added:

“An urgent care need means someone probably needs help in the next 8 hours, and emergency care means someone needs help right away. 

The NHS 111 Wales helpline and website are quicker alternatives for those with urgent care needs and should be the first port of call – unless people have a life threatening or serious complaint.”

Additionally, 99% of pharmacies in Wales can provide advice for and treat a range of conditions which would otherwise be treated by GPs or other NHS services, through the national common ailment service (CAS).

Between April 2022 and March 2023 this service has reduced pressure on GPs and saved around 200,000 GP appointments.

Conditions a pharmacist can provide advice and treatment on include:

  • sore throat
  • conjunctivitis
  • acute back pain
  • nappy rash
  • constipation and many more.