Choose Well

It’s the weekend and a member of the family is saying they are in pain. You can’t get an appointment to see your usual GP so what do you do?

Every year thousands of us face this and similar problems - having to make a decision on where to go to get some advice or possible treatment.

Many of us seek treatment that is appropriate and use local health services correctly. However there are still large numbers of people using services incorrectly - taking up time and resources that could be used to treat those who genuinely need it. 

We can all help ease the burden on local health services by ‘Choosing well’. Poole based GP Dr Patrick Seal explains why and answers some common some questions.

When should I call 999 or go to the nearest accident and emergency department?

The role of 999 and emergency departments (accident and emergency) is to respond to acutely ill patients and those who are seriously ill. As far as possible we would urge people to only use A&E in those circumstances – i.e. if they are acutely unwell or in a life threatening situation.

What if I have an injury but it isn’t life threatening - where can I go to get treated?

People may not be aware that there are out-of-hours services that run through the week and over the weekend which offer people a number of options for non-emergency care. People can access these services by calling 111.

How can my local pharmacy help?

Pharmacists are a tremendous source of information and advice. They are in a position to offer simple remedies for day to day minor ailments and can advise about medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.  They are able to offer advice on a range of problems and we increasingly work collaboratively with them.

Details on local pharmacies can be found in the local press and via the Dorset CCG website

Where can I go for general information?

111 is there to provide a response to questions that individuals may have – when you phone 111 a call handler will take your details and put you in touch with a clinician - for example a doctor or nurse - who is experienced in speaking on the phone and can give you the best advice to suit your needs.

What’s wrong with just going to A&E if my complaint isn’t serious?

People will have heard that the NHS is under pressure and we all feel alarmed when we hear this. We need to be careful that accident and emergency is not seen as the place to go with minor illnesses and we urge people to recognise that it is there for accidents that need specialist attention and for emergencies that are of a serious nature.

If A&E becomes full with people who could get advice elsewhere when a genuine emergency arises we may not be able to respond as we wish.

Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergencyNHS ChoicesThis site is brought to you by My Surgery Website