Think before you visit hospital

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Feeling unwell and not sure if you need to visit hospital? Then think if there’s an alternative.

That’s the advice from medical staff at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn, who say that winter pressure on hospital emergency services could be eased considerably if patients stop to think if their visit is absolutely necessary.

Accident and Emergency services at this time of year are busier than normal but many patients may be visiting the A&E department first, rather than thinking of alternatives.

Patients who are unsure if their condition needs to be treated as an emergency are advised to telephone the new 111 NHS advice service first, for a medical opinion. They may then be directed to an alternative – their own GP or local pharmacy, for example – if they do not need to go to A&E.

The winter vomiting bug, norovirus, is also known to be widespread in the community and in particular can affect people with low resistance – for example, hospital patients, the elderly and the very young.

Anyone who is otherwise well but has had symptoms of diarrhoea or vomiting within the previous 48 hours is urged not to go to hospital either for treatment or to visit sick friends and relatives. Instead, stay at home, keep warm and drink plenty of fluids. If symptoms persist, then call your own GP for advice.

Interim Medical Director at the QEH, Dr Mark Blunt, said: “With colder weather predicted soon, hospitals are likely to be kept extremely busy with patients needing urgent treatment for serious emergency conditions.

“It will help us considerably if those with less serious conditions, for example, coughs, colds and relatively minor illnesses, could take advice first before coming to hospital. The excellent 111 phone service, your GP practice or local pharmacy can give expert advice that may save you a trip to the hospital.”