Don't come to A&E over Easter, warn NHS chiefs.
HEALTH bosses in the North East have issued a warning ahead of the Easter bank holiday weekend as A&E services in the region struggle to cope.
Hospitals across the area are already under unprecedented pressures as they struggle to hit waiting time targets following a crippling winter.
Every hospital trust in the area missed its A&E waiting time targets in January. Now ahead of the Easter weekend, the region's NHS is encouraging people to visit a pharmacist if they need quick access to health advice and treatment rather than turning up at A&E with minor ailments.
Many pharmacies will remain open over the Easter weekend, when other services may not be available.
Dr Craig Melrose, medical director at NHS England Cumbria and the North East, said: "Your pharmacy can help you with more than you might think. Pharmacists offer expert, confidential advice and treatment for many minor health problems.
"As most GP surgeries will be closed on Monday we would also encourage patients to order any medication they need as soon as possible so they have a good supply during the bank holiday."
The weakest NHS performer in the area over the winter was County Durham hospitals where 87.2% of patients waited less than four hours from arrival to discharge, admission or transfer - below the 95% expected standard.
Carole Langrick, executive director of operations at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We are taking focused action to ensure our patients are discharged, transferred or admitted quickly.
"These actions are beginning to make a real difference, and last week we saw a 4.3% improvement in the number of patients seen and discharged or transferred from our emergency departments within four hours."
Dr Guy Pilkington, NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group chairman and GP, said that using a pharmacy would be vital in easing the strain on other more emergency-based services. He added: "If you're not feeling well over Easter, consider getting advice from a pharmacist, or dial NHS 111 for more urgent, but not life-threatening, matters."
Dr Craig Melrose