Hospitals urge people not to attend A&E for hayfever, colds and 'very minor conditions'

Southmead Hospital has seen a 'significant increase' in people coming in with 'very minor conditions'. Credit: ITV News West Country

People should not be attending A&E for hayfever, colds, headaches or other 'very minor conditions', according to hospitals across the West Country.

A&E departments across the region have experienced a 'significant increase' in people attending for non-urgent, minor conditions which can usually be treated more quickly and effectively with medicine from a pharmacist.

This then increases waiting times for those in A&E who have more serious conditions, such as those who arrive by ambulance.

Now they are urging people who feel unwell to use the right service for them, by calling 111 first, who can then direct them to the most appropriate medical help for their condition.

A spokesperson for the NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire said:

"We’re urging people to ‘help us help you’ by using the right service for your needs and contacting 111 first if you’re thinking of going to A&E with a non-emergency injury or illness.

"In recent weeks, our local A&E departments have seen a significant increase in people presenting with very minor conditions such as colds, hayfever and headaches which can often be treated more quickly and effectively with over-the-counter medication from a pharmacist.

"This can increase waiting times for people in A&E with more serious conditions, including those arriving by ambulance."

This warning follows a plea by a consultant at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth not to attend A&E for sunburn.

Dr Richard Bullough said the hospital already had a high number of people coming to the A&E department during the half-term break, and asked those who did not have emergency conditions to visit their GP or pharmacist.

The South Western Ambulance Service were also forced to ask people to only ring 999 in a critical and life-threatening emergency, after they declared a critical incident.

  • Alternative options to visiting A&E

Urgent treatment centres and minor injury units

Where an injury is not life-threatening but still requires urgent treatment, people may be directed by 111 to go to urgent treatment centres or the minor injuries units.

They can deal with cuts, small burns, bites and stings, sprains and some fractures, minor head injuries, infected wounds and foreign bodies in eyes.


Pharmacists are qualified medical professionals and experts in treating minor injuries such as coughs, colds, stomach upsets and aches and pains. They can also help with skin rashes, teething, red eye, ear ache and cystitis.

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