Heatwave sparks rise in A&E visits

Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary Accident & Emergency department
Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary Accident & Emergency department

THE number of people visiting Wigan’s accident and emergency department due to the hot weather is pushing the department to boiling point, health chiefs say.

The prolonged period of scorching temperatures has meant A&E is dealing with large numbers of people suffering sunstroke, sunburn and heatwave-related injuries. Forecasters say the hot weather is expected to continue for several days.

To stave off another tidal wave of admissions caused by the hot weather, which is predicted to last for some time yet, health bosses are reminding sun worshippers to stay cool, use sunscreen and drink plenty of water.

In a stark warning against spending too long in the sun, health chiefs say that in extreme cases heatstroke can result in irreversible damage to the body and can cause brain damage or death – as was seen tragically over the weekend when two soldiers died on a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons in Wales.

To avoid succumbing to the heat, doctors recommend staying out of the sun between 11am and 3pm. They advise covering the head and wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothes.

Fiona Noden, Director of Operations and Performance, said: “The number of patients attending A&E has increased over the past few days and we are continuing to see large numbers of patients coming to A&E with less serious conditions that could be treated elsewhere. People can choose to self-treat at home or seek support from local pharmacies, their GP - including the out-of-hours service or NHS 111. We want to ensure all patients are treated quickly in the best location and A&E is not the right choice for minor conditions.”

The NHS Choose Well campaign aims to get people to think before attending A&E or their GP.

Nationally, more than 51 million people per year visit their GP with minor problems which would clear up by themselves – or with a little help from an over-the-counter remedy.

Up to 40,000 GP visits per year are for dandruff, while a further 20,000 go to their local surgery for travel-sickness, and a staggering 5.2 million with blocked noses.

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.