PRESSURED accident and emergency units in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset are urging patients to consider alternatives to ease “exceptionally high” demand on departments.
The call comes as school holidays arrive and people flock to the area to enjoy the warm weather and beaches.
And as a result of the 'unprecedented pressures', the hospitals are reminding residents of the alternatives to A&E which can provide access to care in the quickest way.
Dr Gary Cumberbatch, consultant in emergency medicine at Poole Hospital, said: “We have been experiencing unprecedented pressures of patient attendance in the emergency department at Poole - as many as 240 people per day, compared to an average of 175.
“We're asking people to make sure they choose the right service when they need care. There are many alternatives to A&E where peoples' health needs may be met more appropriately, and which could offer faster access to care.”
Dr Peter Swallow, consultant in emergency medicine at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, said: “It is a busy time of year for emergency departments and demand on services is currently exceptionally high.
“Our staff are working hard to ensure our patients receive the highest quality of care. In order for this be sustained, we need your help.
“We ask that you carefully consider alternatives to attending the emergency department and only attend should you require emergency treatment. This will allow us to focus our resources on the patients who need the most timely emergency care.”
Alternatives include local GPs, the out of hours service, walk in centres, NHS 111 and pharmacies.
Local GP and chair of NHS Dorset CCG, Dr Forbes Watson, said local healthcare services often see an increase in demand during the summer months with people taking time off work and visitors coming to the county.
He added: “It is important that people are aware of all the ways they can get medical advice and support.
“All NHS services have a role and should be used appropriately so unless it is a genuine emergency we would urge people not to call 999 or turn up at accident and emergency departments. If you are visiting the area and are not sure where to get help please call 111 who can advise you accordingly.”
Seeing your doctor: For medical advice, prescriptions and examinations and for persistent illness. You should be able to get an emergency appointment as soon as possible, Monday to Friday.
GP out of hours service:If your local practice is closed, listen to the answerphone message which should advise you how to contact out of hours services. Advice can also be sought by calling 111 (see below).
Walk-in centre/minor injuries unit (MIU): If you have a minor illness and/or injury such as a scald or sprain that does not require an A&E visit but you can't wait for a GP appointment, visit your nearest walk-in centre. There are centres locally in Boscombe, Blandford, Bridport, Westminster, Wimborne, Weymouth, Sherborne, Portland and Swanage. Visit www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/services/miu for details of your local centre and opening times. Details about the Boscombe and Springbourne Walk-in Centre can be found on www.NWIC.org.uk or by calling 01202 720174.
NHS 111: If you are unsure of your symptoms and want expert advice, dial 111. The service is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the call is free. You will be assessed and advised on the best course of action to take and whether or not you need to seek professional help.
Pharmacy: Pharmacies offer more than prescriptions. They can advise on bugs and viruses, coughs and colds, aches and pains, tummy upsets and allergies.
A&E or 999: For anything that is classed as an emergency including choking, chest pain, loss of consciousness, severe blood loss, broken bones, difficulty breathing, deep wounds, or a suspected stroke.