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  1. ITV Report

Devon health bosses reveal plans to tackle another busy winter amid long A&E waiting times

Emergency Department waiting times in parts of Devon are already worse than expected for this time of year as health bosses prepare for another busy winter.

Today hospital trusts, pharmacists and GPs unveiled their plans for coping with the expected increase on demand and what some are calling a potential 'winter crisis'.

Health bosses are preparing for another busy winter. Credit: ITV News

For those patients that are frail, respiratory, cardiac or diabetes patients, winter really does have an effect on their health. It's proven that the temperature and lack of services can really challenge those patients.

– Kevin McSherry, South Western Ambulance Foundation Trust

Two of the region's largest hospitals, Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and Torbay Hospital, are starting a pilot project to try to prevent ambulances queuing outside the front door.

This is one of a number of initiatives in planning for the winter - including only allowing one per cent of leave for ambulance staff over the Christmas period.

We've worked hard all year on trying to increase the number of nurses and doctors who work at the hospital, we are going to have colleagues joining us so we will have a greater number of beds to respond to that need.

– David Brown, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has one of the region's busiest emergency departments. Credit: ITV News

Flu jabs could be another key to easing winter pressures. In Devon this year all primary school children will be offered flu vaccines as well as younger children.

At the peak of winter there will be up to 3,000 999 calls for ambulances per day, and the public are being asked to make sure they make the right call.

Patients are being urged to use other services and not rely on emergency departments. Credit: ITV News

Alternatives to A&E

Patients are instead advised to consider visiting a minor injury unit, a pharmacist or their local GP.

The NHS’ 111 number is also available for people who urgently need medical help or advice but are not in a life-threatening situation.