The NHS belongs to us all. Let’s use it right

With more than one out of every 10 people admitting they have used A&E departments when they knew they didn’t need to, it’s no surprise that hospitals are reporting increasing numbers of people are using A&E every year when there are more suitable health services available to them.

People attending A&E when it’s not an emergency costs the NHS millions of pounds that could be spent on other services and care. It also takes up A&E doctors and nurses’ valuable time, that could be better spent on those with the most serious or life threatening conditions.

By going to the right place for their condition people will usually be seen more quickly and by appointment and by the professional with the right skills. It often also means that people will be seen closer to where they live or work.

Dr Roger Gardiner, GP and lead clinician for the NHS 111 service in south Essex said: “A&E should only be used in genuine emergency situations to ensure our local hospitals can treat those most in need. NHS 111 is available for people to call when they need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency.”

There are a variety of NHS services available and the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in south Essex want to remind residents of what they are to ensure patients receive the right care, at the right time and right place:

Self Care - A range of common illnesses and injuries can be treated at home simply by using items from a well-stocked medicine cabinet combined with rest. Winter always brings more coughs, colds and sore throats.  If you start to have symptoms of flu or a heavy cold, stay at home, keep warm and take plenty of non-alcoholic drinks. 

NHS 111 - The NHS 111 service is staffed by a team of fully trained advisers, supported by experienced nurses and paramedics. They will ask you questions to assess your symptoms, then give you the healthcare advice you need or direct you straightaway to the local service that can help you best. To access NHS111, just ring 111. The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines or mobile phones.

Pharmacist - You can visit your local pharmacy when you are suffering from a common health problem that does not require being seen by a nurse or a doctor. Your pharmacist can provide advice on common illnesses and the best medicines to treat them. Pharmacies offer more than prescriptions.  They can advise on bugs and viruses, coughs and colds, aches and pains, tummy upsets and allergies. 

Most pharmacists offer private rooms if you want to speak confidentially and you don’t need an appointment. 

GPs: If you have an illness or injury that just will not go away, make an appointment with your local GP. They provide a range of services by appointment, including medical advice, examinations and prescriptions. When absolutely essential, GPs can also provide home visits. Your GP surgery offers more than GP appointments. They have practice nurses that you can see too. 

If you feel you need medical advice, an examination, or you have an illness or injury that requires a prescription, your GP surgery is best. 

Walk-in Centres: If you’re unable to get an appointment and need to see a GP, you can also be treated at your nearest walk-in centre.

St Luke’s Health Centre and The Thurrock Health Centre are open 7 days a week from 8.00am to 8.00pm, including all bank holidays. They offer a range of services including health information and treatment for minor illnesses and injuries without having to make an appointment.

St Luke’s Health Centre

Pantile Avenue, Southend on Sea, SS2 4BD. Tel: 01702 611505

Thurrock Health Centre

55-57 High Street, Grays, Essex, RM17 6NJ. Tel: 01375 898700


Minor Injury Unit:

Orsett Minor Injury Unit provides a comprehensive nurse-led service which deals with a wide range of minor injuries.

Orsett Minor Injury Unit

Rowley Road, Orsett, RM16 3EU

Tel:01268 592300 open 7 days a week 10.00 am to 7.30 pm


Out of Hours GP services: When you phone your GP practice out of hours (from 6.30pm to 8.00am on weekdays and all day on weekends and bank holidays) a recorded message will provide you with contact information for the out of hours GP service.

Accident and Emergency (A&E) or 999: Accident and Emergency departments should only be used in a critical or life-threatening situation. A&E departments provide immediate emergency care for people who show the symptoms of serious illness or if badly injured. Dialling 999 and stating there is a medical emergency will result in a response vehicle being sent.

You should ALWAYS call 999 in the event of one of these emergencies. Don’t ever let a serious condition get worse:

  • Cardiac arrest/collapse/unconsciousness
  • Heart attack (pains through the left arm, shortness of breath, clammy etc.)
  • Stroke
  • Convulsions or fitting
  • Serious injury leading to severe loss of blood, fractures etc.
  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Choking
  • Drowning
  • Severe allergic reactions

Your local A&E departments are situated at:

Southend Hospital: Prittlewell Chase, Westcliff-on-Sea, SS0 0RY, Tel: 01702 435555

Basildon Hospital: Nethermayne,    Basildon, Essex, SS16 5NL, Tel: 0845 155 3111             

Dr Caroline Howard, Clinical Lead and Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Southend Hospital said:

“We are aware that during winter months the number of serious and life threatening cases will go up if temperatures fall below 12 degrees Celsius. So what we don’t need at such a busy time is people calling 999 or attending A&E when they don’t really need to and they could have received more appropriate care using another more appropriate, NHS service.”

Dr Robert Ghosh, Clinical Director Acute Medicine at Basildon University Hospital said:

“A&E should not be used as a service of convenience or an alternative to making an appointment to see a GP. A&E is a service for people with critical or potentially life

threatening conditions. If people use NHS services appropriately clinicians can become more accessible to those who need them most.”

Darren Meads, South Essex General Manager for the East of England Ambulance Service said:

“People need to call 999 if it’s a life-threatening situation, such as cardiac arrest, a suspected stroke, unconsciousness, major loss of blood and so on. People often think ‘I’m not sure whether it’s right to call 999 or not’ but you’ll know it’s an emergency because it’ll mean the risk of someone losing their life.

“We will always reach people as soon as we can - you have every right to expect an ambulance to be with you in a few minutes if it’s cardiac arrest, for instance. But please don’t be alarmed if an ambulance takes longer to reach you if you’ve got a less serious condition.

“Ultimately, our highly skilled staff are there to save lives and give quality patient care. You’re not seen any more quickly if you have gone to hospital by ambulance with a less serious condition, so try to think about alternatives.”

Simon Williams, Executive Lead for Medicines Management, South East Essex CCGs said:

“Pharmacists can often give advice on a wide range of minor health problems to save people from having to visit a GP. Minor ailments such as colds, coughs, sore throats and minor rashes, can all be treated by the pharmacist. They can also advise you about the most suitable medicine to buy to help relieve your symptoms.”

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