A&E is for life-threatening emergencies only please!

The way people access A&E services has changed to keep patients and NHS Scotland safe this winter – making sure everyone gets the right care in the right place.

By John A. MacInnes
Friday, 11th December 2020, 5:33 pm
NHS Western Isles are asking people to be more aware of who can provide them with the best care.Pic: archive image.
NHS Western Isles are asking people to be more aware of who can provide them with the best care.Pic: archive image.

Local A&E departments remain open for those who have a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate attention.

However, to ensure patients have the fastest access to the treatment they need, anyone with a non-life threatening condition who would usually go to their local A&E should now call NHS 24 on 111 first, day or night, to be directed to the right NHS service.

To provide the right care, NHS 24 may refer you directly to A&E, or for a telephone or video consultation with a clinical decision maker,​

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NHS 24 on 111 is also there for those who need urgent medical attention but can’t wait for their GP practice or dentist to re-open.

Those with life-threatening conditions including suspected heart attacks or strokes, severe breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, or severe injury should continue to go straight to A&E or call 999.

But please remember: A&E stands for Accident and Emergency, not Anything and Everything.

This new way of delivering urgent care - which is being supported by a £20million funding package - has been designed to help people get the right care in the right place this winter, at time when there is increased pressure on NHS services. Please who have a condition or minor injury that can wait for further assessment should not simply go to their local A&E.

Increasing virtual appointments – Meet MIA!

In the Western Isles, as part of the campaign to ensure we all access the right care at the right place, we will also be increasing the use of Near Me technology for the assessment of minor injuries, as part of a pilot project, called ‘Meet MIA’ (Minor Injury Assessment).

Near Me is secure form of video consulting approved for use by the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland. Near Me enables people to attend appointments from home or wherever is convenient.

NHS Western Isles has used Near Me to facilitate healthcare appointments with a number of our services for many years, and during the COVID-19 pandemic,

Near Me has been increasingly used by the majority of our services and GP practices, with very positive feedback from service users. All you need for a Near Me appointment is a device for making video calls like a smartphone and an internet connection.

NHS Western Isles is now introducing Near Me for minor injury assessment (MIA), to help reduce patient travel, prevent unnecessary trips to (and waits in) A&E and to reduce face to face appointments to prevent the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

You may therefore now be offered a virtual Near Me appointment if referred by NHS24 or your GP to A&E for a minor injury.

NHS Western Isles Medical Director, Dr Frank McAuley, said: “In Scotland, we have had to change the way we access urgent case, as a result of COVID-19. This is why the NHS24 service has expanded and it is now available day and night for urgent care.

“You can of course also continue to contact your GP practice for advice during the day. Our priority is to help keep you and our local NHS safe. You can help us to help you by changing the way you access urgent care. This will ensure that A&E is kept for emergencies only.”

From December, the public are asked to:

Use the NHS inform website to access advice on common symptoms, guidance for self-help and where to go if further medical care is needed

Contact their local GP practice during the day for an appointment or over-the-phone advice

Call 111 day or night when they think they need A&E but it is not life-threatening

Call 111 and select the Mental Health Hub to access mental health advice and guidance or call the Breathing Space telephone helpline on 0800 83 85 87

Call 111 or use NHS inform out of hours when they are too ill to wait for their GP practice to open, or for worsening symptoms of COVID-19.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “The NHS is always there for you. However, for many of us, A&E is not the right place for the care we need.

“That is why we are making it easier to get the right care in the right place.

“From December, the NHS 24 telephone service on 111 will be available day and night to direct you to the care you need.”