MORE than 1,500 patients visited Wigan Infirmary’s Accident and Emergency department over the Christmas period as medics brace themselves for colder weather ahead.
While there was a decrease from the previous year, A&E services were stretched as some 1,534 patients attended between December 23 and 30. During the same period in 2012, 1,736 patients visited although medics point out that the weather was far colder last year and the norovirus bug had closed some wards in the run up to the festive period.
Fiona Noden, Director of Operations, said: “While the numbers of patients attending A&E is lower than last year, we are continuing to see a significant number coming to A&E with less serious conditions that could be better treated elsewhere. People can choose to self-treat at home or seek support from local pharmacies, their GPs or the Walk-In Centre. We want to ensure all patients receive the right care, at the right time and in the right location. And A&E is not the right choice for minor conditions.”
Met Office forecasters have warned that colder weather could hit the borough next month and health chiefs are asking Wiganers to be mindful of other options when deciding whether or not to attend A&E.
A spokesman for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) said: “We are asking people for their support to make sure that we can give urgent and emergency care to those people who need it most. We need the public to think twice and make sure they choose the right service for minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. The public should only attend A&E if they have a serious health condition or in a genuine emergency.
“Local pharmacies are just one option if you need advice or treatment for a minor illness and offer free, expert advice for a range of minor conditions. GPs or the out-of-hours service is another option to consider. There is also the walk-in centre at Leigh Infirmary that can help with minor injuries or ailments. Information about all health services available in Wigan, such as pharmacies, GPs, the Leigh walk-in centre is available on NHS Direct at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk.”
The warning comes after a survey revealed that a third of GPs believe patients should be charged for some A&E visits according to a new poll.
One in three family doctors, including those in Wigan, said introducing patient fees for some visits would be the most cost-effective way of cutting unnecessary A&E attendances.
Charging patients £5 or £10 every time would stop many people visiting A&E at the “drop of a hat”.