Under pressure NHS seeks support from local people as emergency frontline teams prepare for extremely busy weekend

People in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire are being urged to only use their NHS if absolutely necessary this weekend as all parts of the local health and care system remain under significant pressure from sustained high demand.

A combination of staff absences and increasing numbers of coronavirus cases, coupled with a huge surge in people wanting same-day urgent and emergency care, has resulted in hospitals and the ambulance service experiencing demands for their services not normally seen outside of the middle of winter.

Health and care leaders are now bracing for what is expected to be a very busy weekend and are calling on local people to only use urgent and emergency services if it is absolutely necessary.

Calling 999 or visiting a hospital emergency department for anything less than a genuine, life-threatening emergency takes already-stretched healthcare workers away from their sickest patients, who are most in need of urgent medical assistance.

Will Warrender, Chief Executive, South Western Ambulance Service, said: “We are currently experiencing unprecedented and sustained demand for our 999 service.

“To continue supporting those with the most serious conditions, we need everyone’s help, so please do not call us for non-life-threatening emergencies. Alternative services are available, including 111 who can be contacted by phone or online for medical assistance and advice.

“Our teams are working incredibly hard day and night to be there for those who need us, but we need everyone’s help to enable us to reach patients who need our help as quickly as possible.”

Families with loved ones in hospital are also being asked to collect their relatives as soon as they have been told they are able to go home, as doing so means more beds are available for newer patients in urgent need of admission.

Judy Dyos, Chief Nurse, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are all familiar with the notion of busy hospital emergency departments and people waiting for long periods of time. 

“What is often the cause of these scenes is that staff are unable to move patients to a ward for further care as there simply are not enough free beds.

“While a hospital can be the best place for a person who is very unwell, as soon as a patient is well enough to leave, the best place for them is at home in their own surroundings or in another care setting.

“Families can support us by collecting their loved ones as soon as they can and ensuring their relative’s home has everything needed to continue their recovery, such as medicine, food cupboard staples and clean clothes.”

People needing help with minor illness and injury this weekend are advised to make the most of their local pharmacies, which can provide information, advice and, where appropriate, signposting to alternative services, all without the need for an appointment.

Most community pharmacies are also able to offer a private consultation room, suitable for a confidential conversation, should it be requested.

Alternatively, NHS 111 can also provide advice and guidance based on a person’s specific symptoms.

Further information about local health and care services can be found online at www.bswicb.nhs.uk.