Threats to the NHS may be dominating national headlines, but you can help, by making the right choice, first time when you feel unwell?

Residents needing out of hours medical attention this winter are being urged to think about what care they need before turning up at local accident and emergency departments.

There is a 24-hour urgent care service available in the Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees area, and being aware of the service will save everyone’s time and resources, say NHS bosses.

“Avoid the emergency department where possible,” said Dr Boleslaw Posmyk, Chair, NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, adding that no one wanted to spend time waiting in A&E if they didn’t need to.

“Hospitals are under pressure, especially emergency departments, and we need to make sure specialised hospital staff treat people who really need their expert help in life-threatening or emergency situations.”

Dr Posmyk went on to say that evening and weekend GP appointments are available at one of the extended hours GP centres at Chadwick Practice in the One Life Centre in Hartlepool, Tennant Street Medical Practice in Stockton-on-Tees, or Woodbridge Practice in Ingleby Barwick. You need to book an appointment first and you can do this by calling your own GP practice during the day or 111.

Since April 2017 we have also had 24-hour urgent care centres at North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals. You are advised to call 111 to make an appointment first to avoid long waits.

“After 6pm, if residents call NHS 111, which is available 24/7 and free to call from landlines and mobiles, they will be signposted to the most appropriate service for their needs.

There are things we can all do to keep ourselves out of hospital, such as keeping some basic first aid and medication in a safe place at home, said the CCG, which has also reminded residents their local pharmacist is qualified to give medical advice.

“Most people live within a short walk of a pharmacy to get help for the majority of ailments. They have fully trained staff and often have a private room if you need to speak about something confidential,” said Dr Posmyk

Making the right choice can be confusing, but the NHS 111 line is there to help, making sure residents can access the right care at the right time.

“All accident and emergency departments use a priority system where the most seriously ill or injured patients are seen first. If your condition does not require emergency services, you will be directed to a more appropriate healthcare provider.

“If you are unsure about anything, call 111. It is manned by our local ambulance service call handlers who can give the best advice on where to go, or they will be able to book you an appointment at the right place.”

The integrated urgent care services were launched in April 2017, after residents told the CCG that the local healthcare services were not easy to understand.

“We have listened to patients that have told us that local services are confusing. By providing evening and weekend GP appointments and opening 24 hours urgent care centres at North Tees and Hartlepool hospitals, we hoped patients would find the service much easier to navigate,” he said.

“We have had excellent feedback from patients and want to raise awareness of the new evening and weekend GP appointments to those who don’t know about it.”

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