WITH the number of Covid infections rising and winter fast approaching, local NHS leaders are urging the public to keep A&E free for serious or life threatening emergencies.

NHS A&E departments are designed to treat the most serious, life threatening conditions, so everyone across the North-East is being asked to do their bit and think carefully before turning up.

The NHS across the region is seeing a surge in hospital admissions of patients with confirmed Covid-19, many of whom are seriously ill and receiving intensive care and support.

Those requiring health care services should be thinking pharmacy, GP and NHS 111 first, and not just turning up to A&E.

A&E is coming under even more pressure than usual due to social distancing and infection control precautions, which mean the space available to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by between 30 and 50 per cent.

The public are also being asked to attend hospital sites on their own, where possible, to limit the number of people on site and reduce the risk of infection to other patients and hospital staff.

It’s also important to note that the public should not access Covid-19 testing through A&E.

Professor Chris Gray, clinical lead for the North-East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, insisted that the NHS remained open, but was keen to explain the current situation.

He said: “We must all continue protecting the NHS, by keeping A&E free for serious emergencies.

"People must think pharmacy, GP or 111 first, and not just turn up to A&E.

"NHS A&E departments are designed to treat the most serious, life threatening conditions, so local organisations are asking the public to think very carefully before attending.

“While NHS services remain open and are here for you, despite the rise in Covid-19, it’s vital that people do their very best to use the right services and continue to protect the NHS.

“Patients should continue attending their arranged appointments or seek medical help if they have significant concern regarding their health. This is particularly important for maternity services, people who may suspect cancer or already have existing long-term conditions.

“Many people who come into A&E could have been dealt with much more quickly and safely by an alternative healthcare service, which also reduces the risk of transmitting Covid-19 to other people waiting or NHS staff.”

“This winter, more than ever, it’s vital that we don’t have large volumes of people in our surgeries, clinics and hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere.”

Because of the need to social distance, hospitals have had to reduce space in waiting rooms, making walk in attendances much more difficult to manage, and by thinking of alternative services first, people can do their bit to help stop the spread of coronavirus, keep people safe and keep A&E for real emergencies.

NHS 111 Online has provided a fantastic service during the pandemic and is a hugely useful system for the public, who can make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres.

They can also send an ambulance for serious or life-threatening issues.