'Think 111' before going to Banbury's Horton or Oxford's JR hospital A&E departments, health bosses say
Banbury area residents are being asked to call 111 before going to the Horton's A&E or the JR emergency department in Oxford.
However if they are in a life-threatening emergency they should still seek help at an emergency department, the Oxfordshire health system says.
As hospitals across the county remain under pressure, all residents are encouraged to contact NHS 111 first via 111 online or telephone if they are thinking of attending an A&E department.
NHS 111 is a national system that people can contact if they need clinical advice. People who need clinical advice but aren’t in a life-threatening emergency are encouraged to contact NHS 111 first before attending their local emergency department (A&E). They will then be assessed and, if appropriate, booked into either the Horton General Hospital A&E or John Radcliffe for treatment.
However, if it would be more appropriate for them to receive clinical advice elsewhere, they will be advised on: how to self-care if required, visiting their local pharmacy, dentist, optician or their own GP for help or visiting a local minor injuries unit.
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Launched in Oxfordshire in November last year, the Think 111 programme plays an important part in managing patient flow in healthcare settings and reducing overcrowding.
Lily O’Connor, Deputy Director for Urgent Care at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH), said: "Contacting NHS 111 first before you come to an emergency department means that you will get the most appropriate care for your needs and enables us to maintain vital social distancing in our emergency departments.
"Our hospitals are fuller than they were in March and April last year and it’s really important that we’re able to keep everyone safely spaced and provide the right care for people who really need it."
Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, Urgent Care lead at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: "One of the main advantages of contacting NHS 111 first is that you will get the right care, in the right place, depending on your needs. You may be seen more quickly and by the healthcare professional who is best placed to treat you, a loved one or the person you are caring for.
"By advising people where and when to go, we can reduce queues and avoid crowding in emergency departments and therefore reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission as well as the transmission of seasonal illnesses like flu and colds."
Mark Rowell, Head of Integrated Urgent Care and NHS 111 Services for South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We have worked collaboratively with OUH to develop and implement an emergency department electronic booking system to protect patients and reduce the spread of Covid-19 risks in crowded ED waiting rooms.
"The system works extremely well and patients should contact 111 either by going to the NHS 111 online system where they can self-assess their symptoms and can arrange a call back from one of our clinicians if required or by phone. If the telephone assessment results in the patient being required to attend ED, then a booked timeslot can be made by one of our clinicians. In many cases other more appropriate advice to signpost patients to different healthcare settings can be provided, or further advice given on managing symptoms at home."
People will still be able to contact 999 and attend an ED if they are experiencing a medical emergency but OUH encouragespeople who do not need emergency care to contact NHS 111 First to receive the most appropriate, timely, and convenient treatment.