A&E – Alleviate the pressure on the NHS by choosing 1 of 6 alternatives

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If you ever find yourself in the Accident and Emergency department, you will notice that it’s never quiet. In fact, you can see it’s almost always struggling to cope with the mass of individuals all requesting immediate attention. However, if you were to look a little closer you could notice that half of the patients asking for this urgent help from the A&E staff could actually find the help they need elsewhere.

It’s easy to say this, but when you or a loved one is sick or needs help, you will always look to what you know. In fact, surveys show that many people have admitted misuse of an A&E department in the past stating, they were worried and wanted an answer fast. So, it seems to point to one solution; people need to be educated with their other options so they can potentially find advice, help and even treatment elsewhere.

If everyone chose the right place to go, this would not only get them the help they need faster, it would also ease the pressure on the NHS and its A&E departments. After all, A&E is specifically for the most serious, life or limb-threatening emergencies, such as strokes, severe blood loss, deep cuts or severe burns. Holding up such departments with minor illnesses or injuries, could be preventing others from getting the help they seriously need.

A&E Queuing

So, here we go, here is Steroplast’s guide as to where you can find alternative help, when the situation doesn’t require A&E.

Personal Care

The simplest of common illnesses can easily be treated at home. Coughs and colds can be treated with rest and remedies available from a local supermarket. Minor cuts and grazes can also be treated at home with a well stocked first aid kit.

However, if at any point you are unsure, you can and should seek advice. Advice is available easily from your local pharmacist or even by calling NHS 111. This way you’ll be sure you’re doing the right thing. Or, you will be informed if things need to be escalated to professional treatment.

NHS 111

111 is free to call and is available 24/7, 365 days a year. So, when in doubt, give them a call. A simple call puts you straight through to a clinical advisor, who will then assess your symptoms and tell you what your next step should be. The advisor can talk you through how you can treat the problem, or if need be, arrange an appointment for you at an Urgent Treatment Centre or GP, should you need to see a professional.

NHS 111 is there if you need to speak to somebody urgently but the problem isn’t severe enough for 999. It’s an advice line, so if you think you might need to go to A&E but you’re unsure or you’re unsure where to go to get help, then dial 111 and they will help. If the problem isn’t urgent then contact your GP as you would usually do.

General Practitioner (GP)

This is your first port of call if you have an urgent health problem which isn’t life threatening. Your local GP is fully trained and can advise, and treat your health concerns. Performing examinations, treatment, vaccinations and providing prescriptions for medication if needed. They also have the authority to refer patients to other health services, should it be required.

A GP’s surgery will have a wide range of staff including a practice nurse, pharmacists and healthcare assistants. So, you don’t always have to see your GP. If you have an urgent issue and cannot wait until the next available appointment, you can insist on speaking to a healthcare professional in the surgery. If you’re not registered to a GP and need help, you can always visit your local surgery and request to be seen under the Immediately Necessary Treatment scheme.


GP – Out-of-Hours Service

Outside of the normal opening hours, you can still call your GP surgery and you should be directed to an out-of-hours service. This service is manned by a team of GP’s and nurse practitioners. They are there to provide assistance from 6pm to 8am on weekdays, weekends and bank holidays.

The service provides help, advice and treatment if there is an urgent clinical need that cannot wait for the standard GP surgery to open. The service itself may include GP’s working in A&E departments or minor injury units (MIUs), ambulance services, healthcare professionals working in primary care centres or A&E departments and many other available assistance.

If it is not an immediate emergency, then call NHS 111. They can then provide advice and point you in the right direction to the best local service that can provide the care you need.


Pharmacies can assist in many matters, but always seem to be overlooked. Your pharmacist is a trained healthcare professional and as such can provide clinical advice and treatment for common illnesses such as colds, coughs, aches, pains and rashes. The pharmacist is there to provide help, and best of all, no appointment is necessary.

Walk-in Centre/Urgent Care Centre

The walk-in centres are ideal for unregistered patients or individuals struggling to get appointments with their own GP. The centres can deal with a wide range of problems, from sprains and strains, burns and scalds, emergency contraception to allergic reactions and wound dressing. This however, is not a replacement for your GP. It is also recommended that you call NHS 111 before going to the walk-in centre. This could possibly save your time and the staff’s at the centre.

Taking the strain off the NHS and A&E

As you can see, your options are not minimal. You have many services that are there to help, should you need it. It is our job as individuals, to choose the right one and not simply bombard hospital’s A&E departments with complaints that can be treated elsewhere. The NHS Choose Well campaign is trying to educate people to know more about the services available to them, aside from just A&E and 999, you can read more HERE.

One senior paramedic in Blackpool managed to single-handedly reduce their A&E frequent caller visits by up to 90%. The idea worked so well it is now being rolled out across the country. It is estimated to save the NHS millions of pounds a year! The High Intensity User Programme idea, identified individuals that were abusing the A&E system (those who called at least 5 times a month or at least 12 times in 3 months). She met with these individuals for an informal chat, mentoring and individual coaching. They were then invited to become more involved in community activities and encouraged to call her instead of 999.

So, as you can see, it is more about educating the masses to the other more suitable options available. This will then hopefully free up A&E to deal with the issues that are life and death and in the process save the NHS millions in wasted time.