By Ian Dipple Monday 29 October 2012 Updated: 29/10 12:56
RESIDENTS are being told to stay away from A&E departments over the winter months unless they have a serious or life-threatening health problem.
About 130,000 patients are seen at the county's two A&E departments every year but research shows many of them could have been treated more appropriately somewhere else.
Health chiefs are eager to reduce the number of people using A&E as it is costing millions of pounds. Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is currently being penalised for treating more people this year through A&E than agreed with commissioners and by the end of the financial year could have to pay back £5.5million of its income.
Since April the county’s hospitals have dealt with an extra 2,450 patients.
In a bid to get people to use the health service most appropriate to them, NHS Worcestershire has launched its Choose Well campaign with a particular focus on providing information to families with young children, young people aged 15 to 24 and people with long-term conditions such as diabetes or respiratory problems.
Research shows they are the most frequent users of A&E departments and the aim is to raise awareness of the alternatives and persuade them to use them.
Dr Jonathan Leach, medical director for NHS Worcestershire, said: "We know over the winter the number of serious and life-threatening cases goes up if temperatures fall below 12 degrees Celsius. Hospitals will start to see more people with breathing problems, for example. What we don’t need at such a busy time is people turning up at A&E with minor injuries and ailments."
People with very minor problems such as a hangover or indigestion should look after themselves, advice for the treatment of coughs and colds can be given by pharmacies and for vomiting or a persistent cough a GP surgery should be the first port of call.
More serious illnesses which occur when GP surgeries are closed can be dealt with by the out of hours service on 0300 123 3211.
Sprains, cuts, strains and minor burns call be dealt with at the Minor Injuries Unit in Bromsgrove open from 8am to 8pm (last appointment 7.30pm) Monday to Friday and 12pm to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Visit www.worcestershire.nhs.uk for more information.
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