A&E is not for colds and flu

Medical Director Dermot Hughes.
Medical Director Dermot Hughes.

The Medical Director of the Western Trust has hit out at people attending Altnagelvin Hospital’s Emergency Department with minor ailments such as colds and sore throats.

Revealing that over the Christmas period there was a 7% increase in people attending Emergency Departments (EDs) across Northern Ireland Dermot Hughes said: “I think people sometimes forget that in any Emergency Department, there are people who are fighting for their lives and our staff are doing everything they can to help them.

“They provide the highest level of emergency care for patients, especially those with sudden and acute illness or severe trauma. As Medical Director of the Western Health and Social Care Trust, I would firstly say that saving lives is the priority for everyone working in ED and that minor ailments such as colds and sore throats do not require treatment in an ED.

“People involved in road traffic collisions, anyone with breathing difficulties, chest pains or a serious wound all need to be our first priority.

“There is a significant number of people attending our EDs with minor conditions and they are diverting highly trained doctors and nurses away from the job of helping people who are real emergencies.”

He said that limiting patients to urgent/emergency cases only would allow his colleagues in our Emergency Departments to do what they are trained to do, without the distraction of queues of people with minor ailments.

“It also allows patients with limb or life-threatening problems to receive the attention they need as promptly as possible,” he said.

“The whole process from the moment a patient arrives in the ED until they leave is very carefully managed and monitored by senior medical staff. People who are assessed as having non-emergency conditions are likely to be treated in the Minors area and will have to wait until patients with emergency conditions are given they emergency treatment they need.

“I make no apology for saying that patients in the Majors Area or Resuscitation Area are the priority and that everybody else will just have to wait until care and treatment has been provided to these patients.

“The public has a really important role to play in helping ease the pressures on EDs and most people do understand when it is appropriate to go to an Emergency Department. However, hospital attendances in EDs in Northern Ireland are high compared to the rest of the UK.

“If there is one message for the public it would have to be – think twice before coming to the Emergency Department and only come here if you have a serious and urgent condition. There are other services available like Minor Injuries, GP or GP Out of Hours and Pharmacies that can help you, so please think carefully before choosing the right one.”