Patients urged to "think twice" about where to go for urgent care in Sussex

A sign indicates a hospital has an Emergency Department Credit: PA Images

People living in Sussex are being urged to "think twice" about where they go for urgent care this summer, as services across the region face significant demand.

The NHS says people can be "unsure" about which service is the best to get the help they need.

It wants to stress that Emergency Department's are for major injuries and illnesses, saying people should access the full range of NHS services such as Minor Injuries and Pharmacies.

What other services can you use?

Urgent Treatment Centres

Urgent treatment centres (UTCs) are GP-led, open at least 12 hours a day, every day, offer appointments that can be booked through 111 or through a GP referral, and are equipped to diagnose and deal with many of the most common ailments people attend A&E for.

UTCs will also ease the pressure on hospitals, leaving other parts of the system free to treat the most serious cases. The UTC offer will result in decreased attendance at A&E, or, in co-located services offer the opportunity for streaming at the front door. All UTC services will be considered a Type 3 A&E.

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GP Practice

A General Practitioner (GP) is your family doctor and is the main point of contact for general healthcare for NHS patients. All UK residents are entitled to the services of an NHS GP.

GPs are highly skilled doctors who support patients throughout their lives. They help you to manage your health and prevent illness and are trained in all aspects of general medicine. This includes child health, mental health, adult medicine, the diagnosis and management of acute medical and surgical problems and the management of long term health conditions.

GPs assess, diagnose, treat and manage illness. They carry out screening for some cancers and promote general health and wellbeing. GPs act as a patient’s advocate, supporting and representing a patient’s best interests to ensure they receive the best and most appropriate health and/or social care.

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As qualified healthcare professionals, they can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.

If symptoms suggest it's something more serious, pharmacists have the right training to make sure you get the help you need. For example they will tell you if you need to see a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional.

All pharmacists train for 5 years in the use of medicines. They are also trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice.

Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. You do not need an appointment.

Most pharmacies have a private consultation room where you can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard.

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Those who believe they need a "face to face" appointment are being asked to call NHS 111 first, who will help them get to the most appropriate service - and take pressures off of others.

Health officials also stress that local pharmacies are a great service which is often under used, as no appointment is necessary and most have private consultation areas.

However, if you feel like you need urgent care, there are alternatives to the Emergency Department.

Across Sussex there are several Minor Injury units and Urgent Care centres - with the NHS offering a handy tool to find one near to you.

It says people may not often realise that these centres will often be staffed by Emergency Nurse Practitioners, or at some, GP's. Some will also have X-Ray facilities too - meaning you could be seen quicker than queuing at an Emergency Department.

However not all will be open 24 hours, so it is important you check before you go.