Health Minister Edwin Poots has urged people to think carefully about how they use the health service should they or their family become unwell or have an accident.
The Minister was speaking at the launch of Choose Well, a public information campaign aimed at raising awareness of the range of health services available to treat everything from a common cold to a major emergency.
The launch which was held today ( 7 November) at the Grove Wellbeing Centre, Belfast. The Minister said; “The Choose Well campaign aims to help people gain a better understanding of the choices available and allow them to get access to the right services quickly, whether it is checking online, a trip to the pharmacy or an appointment with the GP. If people choose well, they will get the right services for them and will help the health service to help them”.
“We know through research that people are using their GPs when self care or a trip to the pharmacy will do. For example, around 40% of 16-24 year olds have visited their GP in the event of a cold. Because the number of genuine urgent and emergency cases rises during winter hospitals, GPs and community nursing teams all have their hands full. Very often people do not need to see a GP; pharmacists can advise patients on minor ailments, pain relief, skin complaints, coughs and colds, over the counter or on the telephone.”
The Minister continued: “Choose Well is also about helping the staff in our emergency services concentrate on the people who are the most sick and injured. It’s about making it clear to the public that emergency and 999 services are for life threatening and serious conditions. Minor healthcare issues can be dealt with at home, by a pharmacist or by a GP. We need the public to help emergency services to treat emergency cases.
“We have all read or heard about inappropriate use of the emergency services – the person who dialled 999 for an emergency ambulance because they wanted their prescription collected from their GP Practice or the person who attended ED because their false nails were hurting them. If you use the health service wisely, it means you can be seen and treated more quickly and by the most appropriate person.
“If you’re in doubt about which service is most appropriate for you, more information is available on www.nidirect.gov.uk/choosewell.”
Click here to access the Health Social Care Board Choose Well Research Report
Some examples of how to use the health service appropriately are:
Self Care – Self-care is the best choice to treat minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. A range of common illnesses and complaints, such as aches and pains, coughs, colds, upset stomachs and sore throats can be treated with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest.
Pharmacists – Your pharmacist may be able to help you with:
· eye infections, stomach upsets, skin conditions, allergies, aches and pains
· common drugs, vitamins and minor first-aid
· healthy eating and living, including giving up smoking
· blood pressure and diabetes monitoring and needle exchange, truss fittings, stoma products and incontinence supplies
· women’s health, including treatment for thrush, emergency contraception and pregnancy testing
· children’s problems, including nappy rash, teething, coughs and colds
· all prescribed and over the counter medicines
GP – GPs provide a range of services including:
· medical advice
· physical examinations
· diagnosis of symptoms
· prescribing of medication
· health education
· giving vaccinations
· carrying out simple surgical procedures
· providing ongoing care for more longstanding or chronic conditions
GP Out Of Hours
GP out of hours is available if you require urgent medical care when your GP surgery is closed. GP out of hours services operate from 6pm each weekday evening until your GP surgery opens the next morning and 24 hours on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
Types of injuries treated can include:
· injuries to upper and lower limbs
· broken bones, sprains, bruises and wounds
· bites – human, animal and insect
· burns and scalds
· abscesses and wound infections
· minor head injuries
· broken noses and nosebleeds
· foreign bodies in the eyes and nose
ED / 999
Emergency Departments provide the highest level of emergency care for patients, especially those with sudden and acute illness or severe trauma such as:
· Suspected heart attack
· Suspected stroke
· Serious head injury
· Serious accident
The Minister concluded: “Before you dial 999 or go to your local ED, think about your options. I don’t want to discourage those with a genuine medical emergency from calling 999, but simply ask that they ‘Choose Well’ and consider the range of other more appropriate services available. If you genuinely feel you need the emergency services, please do call as soon as you can.”
Speaking at the Choose Well launch, Dr Ian Clements, Chair of the Health and Social Care Board, said:
“The Health and Social Care Board is delighted to be supporting Choose Well. Today’s launch of information leaflets and posters is an important first step towards providing the public with authoritative and consistent information to help everyone to choose the right service that best meets their healthcare needs. Picking the right service for your symptoms means you get the most appropriate and best treatment. Choosing well also helps to manage our finite healthcare resources”.
“Whilst we are extremely pleased that the research the Board commissioned showed that across Northern Ireland there are high satisfaction rates with health and social care services, it also highlighted that at times people aren’t using the right services, in the right place, at the right time. Through the campaign we will be asking the public to think about the services they use and help us to help them by choosing well.”