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Avoid A&E, says NHS as winter crisis bites early

The NHS is to launch a campaign urging the public to avoid A&E in an echo of appeals to protect the health service during the Covid pandemic.

The head of the NHS has instructed hospitals to prepare a public awareness campaign calling for people to “minimise” pressures on urgent and emergency services.

Such an instruction has never been issued so early in the year, and comes amid concerns that hospitals and ambulance services are already facing strains usually seen in the depths of winter.

People suffering a genuine emergency will still be encouraged to go to A&E, but on Friday night there were warnings that the campaign risks exacerbating the problems caused by patients staying away from the health service during Covid.

Prof Carl Heneghan, an urgent care doctor and professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, said the NHS needed to be very careful about trying to dissuade the public from using services.

“The NHS seems to be the only business I know that doesn’t know how to deal with demand, and work with the needs of its customers,” he said.

“As an urgent care doctor, I need to be in front of the patient to do my job. It’s often too difficult for the new mum to know when it’s appropriate to turn to emergency services. These decisions are difficult – it’s the job of a doctor.

“Too often I see elderly patients who apologise for taking my time and I say ‘don’t apologise – you could have been 24 hours away from death’.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: The Telegraph, 19 August 2022


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