The chief executive of NHS Wales is asking the public to help the NHS and people with life-threatening conditions this winter by choosing the right health service for their needs as part of a new national campaign.
The Choose Well campaign encourages people to think about how they use their NHS and find the right health service for their illness or injury.
The new campaign for 2015-16 highlights the importance of self care in dealing with many minor illnesses and ailments, which can be treated at home with over-the-counter medicines and advice. It also directs people to free help available in local communities from NHS Direct Wales, GP surgeries, high street pharmacies, opticians and minor injury units, to treat a range of injuries and health conditions.
Ear pain, coughs, headaches or a runny nose can be dealt by self care or with advice from a pharmacy. Treatment for minor injuries is available at local hospital minor injuries units – people do not need to go to Accident & Emergency for help. If people do not know what NHS service to use, the new Choose Well campaign will direct them to the NHS Direct Wales helpline on 0854 46 47.
Choose Well asks people to only go to Accident & Emergency or to dial 999 if they have a life-threatening condition which needs immediate medical attention, such as persistent or severe chest pain or if someone is choking; blacking out; has major blood loss which can’t be stopped or has suffered a suspected stroke.
The new campaign will include digital adverts; a Facebook and Twitter campaign; traditional bus adverts and posters and leaflets in GP surgeries, pharmacies, opticians and universities.
It has been developed as figures show a significant number of people are still opting to call 999 or visit Accident & Emergency instead of using more appropriate NHS services for their needs. For example:
- Approximately 35% of calls to 999 are for minor illnesses and injuries, such as toothache, sore throats, coughs and colds;
- More than 100,000 non-urgent 999 calls are made every year – 270 a day - resulting in time wasted for call handlers;
- Approximately one in three 999 calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service are non-urgent and would be better dealt with by another NHS provider or a pharmacist;
- Between 70-80% of patients who attended Accident & Emergency departments in Wales in 2014/15 were not admitted for ongoing treatment. Many could have been seen, assessed and received advice more appropriately and more quickly in another healthcare setting, such as a minor injuries unit, GP surgery or a pharmacy.
- Almost 1,200 people are admitted to hospital with alcohol-related conditions in Wales every week;
- Patients do not turn up to around one in every 20 GP appointments.
Dr Andrew Goodall, NHS Wales chief executive, said: “The NHS in Wales treats thousands of patients every day. Our Accident & Emergency departments alone see one million people a year. However, self care is the best option for treating the minor illnesses and injuries which account for a very large proportion of what health workers deal with. Many illnesses can be treated in your home with over the counter medicine and plenty of rest.
“When your injury or illness can’t be managed at home, your GP practice, NHS Direct Wales, local pharmacy, opticians, dentists or health visitors can help. A&E is for serious, life-threatening conditions that need immediate medical attention.
“This is your NHS. It is your responsibility not to put lives at risk but to think and choose well what – if any – service you really need.
“The vast majority of medical conditions do not need emergency care. There are a large number of easy-to-access services which can help people get the right care at the right time. Making the right decision will not only help people get treated in the most appropriate way quickly, but it also means our health service’s resources are being used in the most efficient way.”