03 Nov

Health chiefs advise patients to go to emergency dentists and use GPs and pharmacies before visiting A&E departments

Health chiefs have issued a plea to reduce pressure on A&E departments with winter fast approaching.

As pressure on emergency NHS services increases in line with the demand for treatment during the winter and the ongoing pandemic, NHS England’s national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, is urging members of the public to make use of community health and dental services.

Accident and Emergency departments are designed to treat individuals who require urgent attention for potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses.

To enable ambulance and A&E services to function effectively, it is vital that people think carefully about which services to use. GP surgeries and pharmacies are able to deal with minor injuries and ailments and anyone who has dental issues should contact their regular dentist or an emergency out of hours service. Doctors are not trained to treat dental patients and they can only provide short-term solutions, such as painkillers.

Prof Powis warned that this winter could be particularly challenging, with Covid-19 case numbers still very high and an expected influx of patients with other respiratory and seasonal illnesses.

To cope with rising demand, Prof Powis encouraged the public to make use of NHS 111, which is designed to help patients who need urgent help or advice for conditions or injuries that are not life-threatening and to visit GP practices, pharmacies and dental clinics for help with minor illnesses and dental issues.

During his interview, Prof Powis also took the opportunity to encourage anyone who is eligible for a flu vaccine to make an appointment and for those who are able to have their booster jab now to come forward. NHS England has now made booster vaccines available at walk-in centres, enabling individuals to have their jab without an appointment.

Boosters are available for priority groups, including over 50s, health and social care workers and younger adults who have underlying health issues.