AS hospitals across the North East enter one of their busiest periods, patients are urged to choose the right NHS service for their condition.
Demand for healthcare is usually high at this time of year and in recent weeks hospitals have reported an increase in admissions of people suffering chest pains and breathing problems.
To help A&E and 999 services to cope with the demand and ensure people get the right treatment for their symptoms, health bosses have issued a reminder of the other services available.
For minor ailments, self-help with over-the-counter medicines and rest may be most suitable, while pharmacists can advise on illnesses and the right medicines to take for coughs and colds, stomach upsets, or aches and sprains.
NHS Direct can answer health queries round the clock and help patients find the best services, and GPs offer medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses that can’t be shaken off.
NHS walk-in centres can treat minor illnesses or injuries, with Accident and Emergency Departments or 999 services used only for critical or life-threatening situations.
NHS North East Deputy Medical Director Dr Tricia Cresswell said: “Services have been busy since the turn of the New Year and we want to remind people across the North East how to access the right help and support from their local NHS so that essential A&E and 999 services can concentrate on serious emergencies.”
People are also being asked to look out for their vulnerable friends, relatives and neighbours to make sure they are warn enough and have enough food and medicines.
Symptoms can be checked online at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk or by calling 0845 4647.