Emergency health services in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire are experiencing additional pressures this week.
Chair of Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Nicolas Small, said: “The Accident and Emergency departments at our hospitals only have the capacity to treat people who have serious, life-threatening or dangerous conditions. If you have a minor complaint or injury you should not come to A&E in Hertfordshire or Bedfordshire: your care will not be a priority and you may even be sent away".
“We have never seen our hospitals under such pressure before. Please do not attend our hospitals with common winter illnesses, such as chest infections, coughs and colds, diarrhoea or vomiting. Ambulances should only be called in genuine emergencies. If you use the emergency services incorrectly you are risking the lives of others and won’t get the best treatment for your illness.”
This comes after more than 240 people arrived at Watford General’s A&E department on Monday, including patients who thought they had flu, people with toothache, and some women asking for the morning after pill.
Pressures on local A&E departments have been building up for a while. Quarterly figures show that 31,898 local people used West Hertfordshire’s A&E services between October and December 2013. This compares with just over 34,000 in the same period in 2014, representing an increase of 7%.
Over a period of five weeks (1st December 2014 - 6th January 2015) almost 13,000 people have used Watford’s A&E services.
Samantha Jones, current Chief Executive of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust encourages non-emergency patients to consider using other services.
“Our hospitals continue to be very busy, especially our A&E services, so we would encourage people to use their GP, their pharmacy and NHS 111, and only to use A&E for serious and life threatening injuries and illnesses.”
Written by Mollie Malone.