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Winter Choose Well Campaign Launches Today

Over 2 million unnecessary A&E visits

With more than one out of every ten people admitting to have used A&E when they knew they didn't need to, hospital doctors and nurses are asking the public to think twice before they dial 999 this winter.  A&E attendance from June 2011 to May 2012 was over 17. 6 million - so that's a staggering 2,112,000 attendances which were unnecessary. 

Mike Cheshire is regional medical director for the North West and said: "We know that over the winter, the number of serious and life-threatening cases will go up if temperatures fall below 12 degrees Celsius.  That's people with breathing problems, strokes and heart-attacks caused by the cold weather.  What we don't need at such a busy time, are people calling 999, turning up at A&E or going to their GP when they don't need to be there.

"It's not just A&E and 999 teams who feel the pressure over winter.  GPs and community nursing teams are a vital part of the care needed by people who return home after having suffering a life-threatening emergency."

The Choose well campaign aims to educate and inform people about the different NHS services available to them.   It promotes self-care and the use of local high-street pharmacy for common complaints such as coughs and colds, flu, stomach upsets and general aches and pains.  The campaign has been developed by NHS teams and has been growing in the past couple of years.  Over the winter months information will be distributed by NHS teams throughout the community and promoted via Twitter and Facebook.

Mike added: "Most common complaints will begin to get better within a couple of days. We know that people can sometimes get confused about which NHS service to use.  You should not be going to A&E because your toe-nails need cutting, calling 999 because of period pain or going to your GP with a common cold.

"We carried out a quick on-line survey over the summer and 94 per cent of those who answered said that people should do more to self-care for common complaints, such as coughs, colds and so on. 

"We are kicking off a winter campaign and are working with the National Self Care Forum, the Royal College of GPs and the National Pharmacy Association to try and get this important message across".

Advice and information about a range of common winter health complaints, including how long symptoms will last and how to relieve symptoms is available from NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk You'll find an easy to use symptom checker, can search for your local services and use the interactive First Aid toolkit.  A mobile phone friendly web-link is also available at http://bit.ly/nhsnwQR


Further Information:

  1. There were 650 responses to an on-line survey to measure people's attitudes to self-care for common health complaints.  A summary of the results showed that:
    • 94 per cent agreed that people should self-care for common health complaints
    • 87.5 per cent agreed that A&E and 999 services should only be used for life-threatening emergencies
    • 47.5 per cent thought that people go to their GP or use their A&E or 999 service for common complaints if they are worried their symptoms could be for something more serious
    • 34 per cent believed that common complaints would get better by themselves without a GP appointment and that people should use their local pharmacy for advice for these conditions
    • 46 per cent said that going to see a GP with a common complaint wastes valuable NHS resources and GP time, when they could be helping people with serious conditions
    • 20 per cent said they thought that people need to take more responsibility for their own health
    • 29 per cent thought that more education is needed
    • 24 per cent believe that an information and advertising campaign is needed
  2. NHS teams across the North West are backing the Choose Well campaign.  Choose Well aims to give people information so that they know where to go to in the first instance, to get fast, expert advice when they need it, and how to help themselves if they have a common illness or ailment - and help ease the pressure on A&E and 999 services at the same time.
  3. If you or someone in your family has back pain, sore throat, flu, cough or cold, stomach upset or sports injury, there are a number of ways you can look after yourself in the first instance.
  4. Your symptoms should ease over a few days if you use some over-the-counter medicines that are available from your local chemist.  Your high street chemist can give you expert advice.  Always read the instructions carefully and make sure you don't take more than the recommended dose.
  5. If your symptoms suddenly deteriorate or continue to get worse over a number of days, get an appointment to see your GP.