Posted by Amanda Crawford at 30/12/2014 16:06:14
If you have a minor injury or illness then you will not be seen by Accident and Emergency staff. That is the stark message from doctors this week.
GP Dr Bob Bowes, who chairs NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group which plans and pays for most of the area’s health services, warned: “Because the A&E departments are so busy at the moment, there is absolutely no point in going to A&E unless you have a life-threatening injury or illness.
“Staff are under so much pressure they will send you to a minor injury unit and you will have wasted valuable time in getting treatment. People don’t realise how many conditions minor injury staff are trained to deal with. And the queues are far shorter.”
West Kent patients have a choice of three minor injury units:
Edenbridge District and War Memorial Hospital
Mill Hill, Edenbridge, TN8 5DA
Open 8.30am to 6.30pm, every day of the year.
X-ray: 9am to 2.30pm, Monday to Friday
Telephone 01732 862137
Hospital Road, Sevenoaks, TN13 3PG
Open 8am to 8pm, every day of the year.
X-ray: 8.45am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Telephone 01732 470200
Crowborough War Memorial Hospital
Southview Road, Crowborough, TN6 1HB
Open 8am to 8pm, 365 days a year
Telephone: 01892 603602
Minor injury units are staffed by specialist nurses and offer a walk-in service, 365-days-a-year. Patients aged 12-months-old and over can be treated for minor cuts, bites and stings, foreign bodies in wounds, ears and noses, minor burns and broken arms and lower legs. If you have an ailment such as a cough, cold, ear, nose and throat infection or urinary tract infection you should go to your GP or minor injury unit.
Minor Injury Units treat: They are under particular pressure at this time of the year because more people slip over on ice or wet leaves; there are more car crashes in the dark or in the fog and elderly patients suffer more from heart, stroke and breathing problems which need immediate treatment.
• sprains and strains
• broken bones
• wound infections
• minor burns and scalds
• minor head injuries
• insect and animal bites
• minor eye injuries
• injuries to the back, shoulder and chest
They do not treat:
• chest pain
• breathing difficulties
• major injuries
• problems usually dealt with by a GP
• stomach pains
• gynaecological problems
• pregnancy problems
• allergic reactions
• alcohol- related problems
• mental health problems
If you are unsure, you can call the unit before you go or call the free NHS 111 helpline. A&E departments are only for life-threatening injuries or serious illnesses.
Dr Bowes added: “Our accident and emergency departments are fully prepared for patients with life-threatening and serious illness and injuries but they should not be the first port of call for everyone who is feeling unwell or needs treatment for a minor injury.”
The 24-hour helpline, NHS 111, is free to call from landlines and mobiles and can help you find the right service. It can also put you in contact with a doctor when your GP practice is closed overnight and at weekends. Just dial 111.
Those with internet access can use Health Help Now, the free NHS website and smartphone app which helps you find the best place for treatment in the local area.
Health Help Now lists common symptoms for people of all ages and shows the nearest services, whether they are open or closed, and provides a map of their location and directions. Visit www.healthhelpnow-nhs.net or search “Health Help Now” in your app store.
The West Kent CCG area has A&E departments in Maidstone Hospital and Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Pembury.
ACCIDENT & EMERGENCY MYTH-BUSTER
You get seen faster at A & E
DEPENDS: Emergencies take priority at A&E. People with illnesses or injuries that are not serious will be seen after more urgent cases and may have a long wait. If your illness is not serious or life-threatening, it is better to seek advice by using the free NHS 111 phone line. GPs are available 24-hours a day via your practice or the out-of-hours 111 service. If you are sure you need a doctor urgently, explain this to the receptionist and they will do their best to fit you in. In the meantime, you will be in the comfort of your own home while you wait. Don’t overlook help from your local pharmacist. If you have a suspected sprain, small wound, burn or eye infection, a minor injury unit may be able to help. Minor Injury Units with X-ray can also diagnose breaks to shoulders, arms and lower legs.
You see a specialist at A&E
DEPENDS: The doctors and nurses in A&E are specialists in emergencies. However, they are not specialists in the range of services offered by the hospital, such as surgery or children’s care. If you need specialist advice, A&E will arrange for someone to see you – but it may take time. For instance, a surgeon may be performing an operation. A&E doctors and nurses are not specialists in illnesses such as urinary tract infections, breathing problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or diabetes, which are better treated by GPs.
It is impossible to get an appointment with a GP so it is better to go straight to A&E.
FALSE: It is always best to be seen at your own surgery where possible. In many practices GPs may be able to phone you back to discuss your problem and offer advice. Where there is a genuine medical need, GPs should be able to see you quickly. Do not be swayed by past experience. If you think you need to see a GP urgently, phone your practice and let them know. If you need a GP out of hours, call NHS 111.
You get all your tests and treatment in one go at A&E
FALSE: If you go to A&E for an ultrasound to check on, say, a possible miscarriage, you will have to return, as scans aren’t performed on the same day. In contrast, your GP can book a scan for you without the wait. Most GPs will also be able to tell if you need an X-ray.
You will be seen before other people in A&E if you call 999 and arrive in an ambulance
FALSE: You will be assessed the same way as anyone else. Remember 999 is for emergencies. The ambulance service will, of course, arrange an ambulance if your condition is serious. But your condition may be better dealt with by another, more appropriate NHS service.
You get free prescriptions at A&E
FALSE: If you normally have to pay for prescriptions, you will be charged by the hospital pharmacy during office hours. At night and weekends, you will not be charged on the spot - but the bill will be sent to you later.