A clinical leader for the NHS in Suffolk and north east Essex has said she has never known the local health system to be so challenged.
A combination of the strike by hospital consultants continuing until 7 a.m. on Saturday, the increased demand caused by summer holiday injury and illness, an upcoming bank holiday on Monday August 28 and the ongoing effect of staffing and recruitment issues are all increasing the pressure.
In addition, many staff are taking annual leave so teams are already stretched.
Suffolk and north east Essex has seen some warm weather this week, which usually leads to an additional rise in demand for services.
Dr Ruth Bushaway, Associate Medical Director, NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, said: “The system is still functioning thanks to the brilliant efforts of staff, and the resources are there to help those who need it, but the situation is only sustainable if local people continue to do the right thing and to use services wisely.
“By doing the right thing I mean making NHS 111 online the first port of call for help and advice if you’re feeling unwell. The service is available 24/7 and will direct you to the most appropriate source of advice if you need it, including local GPs out of hours. The NHS 111 ‘phone line is also open day and night, with trained advisers on hand, though people need to be mindful there may be a delay in calls being answered due to the service being very busy.
“Local pharmacies are a precious resource that are sometimes overlooked, yet offer an accessible form of face-to-face health care advice, with no appointment needed to speak with the pharmacist.
“Please don’t go to A&E with a minor illness or injury that can be dealt with by 111 or a pharmacy. Staff at A&E are busy dealing with life-threatening conditions and we need to do all we can to make sure those people with an emergency health issue are dealt with speedily. Anyone with an emergency or with a life-threatening condition should not hesitate to call 999 or go to A&E.
“As we approach the busy bank holiday, I urge people to be prepared by keeping medicine cabinet basics, such as sticking plasters, antihistamines and paracetamol, at home so they can most easily deal with those minor illnesses and injuries. GP practices will be closed on Monday August 28 but some pharmacies will be open and the NHS 111 service never closes.
“I want to thank everyone for all they are doing to support their NHS and I ask them to keep doing all they can.”
Find the pharmacy nearest to you open on bank holiday Monday HERE