Avoid visiting A&E unless absolutely necessary

14 December 2016

People across north east Essex are being asked not to go to the Accident and Emergency department at Colchester General Hospital unless they have a serious or life threatening condition.

The number of people who have visited A&E this week has risen, putting pressure on the hospital.

Several patients who visited the department have presented with minor injuries that could have been treated more appropriately and faster at an alternative NHS service.

Dr Angela Tillett, Medical Director at the Trust said: "A&E should only be used for critical or life-threatening situations requiring medical attention, such as loss of consciousness, heavy blood loss, suspected broken bones, persistent chest pain, difficulty breathing, signs of stroke, overdoses, ingestion or poisoning.

"It is vital that emergency services are free to help people with the greatest need. Patients with minor injuries which do not require a visit to A&E can also be treated at Walk-in Centres or minor injury units.

"This will significantly help to relieve pressure on the hospital's A&E teams and reduce waiting times for all patients."

Winter months also see the spread of colds, flu and norovirus (diarrhoea and vomiting) through touching surfaces as we go about our daily business and then touching our mouths or food that we eat. Adopting good hand hygiene reduces the risk of spread which is particularly important when we're visiting friends or relatives in hospital, the elderly at their home or when we're around very young children.

The best way to wash hands is with soap and warm water, paying attention to fingers, thumbs, under nails and wrists. Drying hands properly is just as important, as damp hands can harbour germs.

Dr Tony Elston, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the Trust, said: "It's important that we do all we can to try and protect vulnerable patients in our hospitals, particularly those who may have impaired immunity, as well as those in the community so they don't end up being admitted.

"If you see signs asking you to clean your hands before you enter a ward, please do so. But getting into the routine of good hand hygiene will help all year round, not just for winter."

* For more information, visit the Trust’s webpage on Winter, via:

Alternatives to A&E

Please consider these ways of getting treatment faster:

If you have an urgent and severe but non-life threatening illness or condition then please go to the Walk-in Centre or a Minor Injuries Unit.