It needn't be A&E - Choose Well this winter

Posted: December 24, 2012

At least one in four people attending A&E could be treated more quickly and effectively elsewhere

Before you head straight to the hospital's Emergency Department (ED), think about whether you could receive the right treatment more quickly elsewhere. This is the message from Swindon's leading doctors as they build up to the busy winter period. 

It is estimated that at least one in four people attending ED could be treated more quickly and effectively elsewhere. 

More than 70,000 patients attended the Great Western Hospital's Emergency Department each year, that's more than 200 daily and during the busy winter period staff can treat up to nearly 300 patients each day. 

Some people wrongly assume that if they turn up to ED they will be seen more quickly, however patients are treated in order of clinical need, therefore if your condition is not critical or life-threatening you will be redirected to a more suitable NHS service, where you are likely to be treated more quickly. 

In many cases people could receive the right treatment much more quickly from a local pharmacy, by calling NHS 111, or their GP or outside of normal GP surgery opening hours - the Swindon Walk-In Centre on Carfax Street or the Urgent GP/Nurse Centre on the Great Western Hospital site. 

By choosing well you help to reserve ED for people with the most critical and life-threatening emergencies. 

Know what your options are: 

Plan ahead with self care

A well-stocked medicine cabinet will help you treat many everyday illnesses at home. For example a small supply of paracetamol, ibuprofen and other remedies available in supermarkets, may help treat common ailments such as coughs, colds, and sore throats. 

Your local pharmacy

Pharmacists are qualified to give advice on things like coughs, colds, sore throats, aches and pains, sprains and stomach upsets. You can talk to your pharmacist in confidence, without having to wait for a GP appointment. Your pharmacist will advise you on whether you need to access another NHS service. Many pharmacies are now open very late.  

NHS 111 service 

NHS 111 is a new service that's being introduced to make it easier for you to access local NHS healthcare services in England. You can call 111 when you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency.  Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. 

When to use it

You should use the NHS 111 service if you urgently need medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation.

Call 111 if:

  • you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency
  • you think you need to go to  A&E or need another NHS urgent care service
  • you don't know who to call or you don't have a GP to call
  • you need health information or reassurance about what to do next

Your GP

If you have an illness or injury that won't go away or a 'flare up' of a long-standing illness such as kidney or lung disease, bronchitis, asthma or diabetes that is not responding to self care or advice from your pharmacist, contact your GP surgery. You will need to register with a GP surgery before you can see a GP.

Out-of-hours services

Outside normal surgery hours you can still phone your GP surgery, but you'll usually be directed to an out-of-hours service. 

Swindon Walk In Centre, Carfax Street, Swindon, SN1 1ED

Whether you are registered with a GP or not, anyone can visit the centre, located right in the centre of Swindon, just next to the bus station.Its open 7 days a week, 365 days a year (even Christmas Day). The team can help with all kinds of minor illnesses and injuries from ear, nose and throat infections to cuts, sprains and burns. This service is particularly useful to commuters and people working full time. The centre also welcomes patients who do not speak English and have no permanent address. It is open7am - 8pm, Mon to Fri, 8am - 8pm Sat/Sun/Bank Hols. Call 01793 541655.

Urgent GP/Nurse Centre on the Great Western Hospital site

The service is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Anyone can walk-in between 8am and 2am and access urgent medical care from a dedicated team of nurses.

The centre also provides access to advice and treatment from GPs outside of normal surgery opening hours. Patients should phone the out-of-hours telephone number 01793 646466 to make an appointment.

The Emergency Department 

The Emergency Department should only be used in a critical or life-threatening situation. An emergency is a critical or life-threatening situation, which may include:

-        Loss of consciousness

-       Severe breathing difficulties or chest pain

-       Deep wounds such as stab wounds

-       Severe chest pain

-       Broken bones

-       Heavy loss of blood.


If emergency care is required you should dial 999 immediately.


Not sure which service is right for you?

Look up local NHS services on the NHS Choices website

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