NHS Choose Well campaign promotes best routes to speedy care

More than 2.1 million visits to the nation’s A&E departments last year were unnecessary – according to the people who made them. Now hospital doctors and nurses are backing national Choose Well Week and asking the public to think twice before they dial 999 this winter.

A&E attendance from June 2011 to May 2012 was over 17.6 million – and the 12% of people who admitted in a survey to using A&E when they knew they didn’t need to represents a staggering 2,112,000 attendances that were wasted.

The Choose Well campaign will run over the winter and aims to educate and inform people about the different NHS services available to them. It promotes self-care and the use of the high-street pharmacy to tackle common complaints such as coughs and colds, flu, stomach upsets and general aches and pains.

The campaign has been developed by NHS teams over the past couple of years and, over the winter months, they will distribute information throughout the community, including via Twitter and Facebook.

Dr Doug Black, Medical Director at NHS Nottinghamshire County, said: “We know that, over the winter, the number of serious and life-threatening cases will go up if temperatures fall below 12 degrees Celsius. That’s people with breathing problems, strokes and heart-attacks caused by the cold weather.

“What we don’t need at such a busy time are people calling 999, turning up at A&E or going to their GP when they don’t need to. We know that people can sometimes get confused about which NHS service to use, but going to A&E because your toe-nails need cutting or calling 999 because of period pain is clearly unnecessary.

“It’s not just A&E and 999 teams who feel the pressure over winter. GPs and community nursing teams are a vital part of the care needed by people who return home after a life-threatening emergency. For most people, it’s not necessary to see your GP if all you have is a common cold - most common complaints will begin to get better within a couple of days.”

In an on-line survey carried out by the NHS over the summer, 77% of respondents said that people should start taking more responsibility for their health and self-treat common complaints so that GPs, nurses and hospital doctors can focus on helping people who really need care and treatment.

Advice and information about a range of common winter health complaints, including how long symptoms will last and how to relieve them, is available from NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk. You’ll find an easy to use symptom checker, can search for local services and use the interactive First Aid toolkit. A mobile phone friendly web-link is also available at http://bit.ly/nhsnwQR