Belfast Telegraph

If you make the right choices, you will get best help

By Jim Wells

There are over 727,000 visits a year to our emergency departments (EDs). A comparatively small number of people use EDs on an exceptionally high number of occasions in a year. In some cases these are patients who have a chronic illness or other genuine need. There may also be patients who are homeless or who have alcohol or drug addictions.

The HSC has been developing measures to treat such patients, such as developing alternatives to ED care or targeted arrangements if they do present at the ED.

My main concern is in regard to people using EDs for non-urgent conditions, whether frequently or occasionally.

Staff in our emergency services must be allowed to focus on patients who are the most sick and injured.

The Choose Well campaign aims to help people gain a better understanding of the choices available and allow them to get access to the right services quickly.

Before you dial 999 or visit your local ED, consider whether your condition is serious or life-threatening.

Those with a genuine medical emergency should of course call 999, but in many circumstances, there are other more appropriate services available.

Many minor healthcare issues can be dealt with at home while your local pharmacist can advise on a range of minor ailments, pain relief, skin complaints, coughs and colds, and provide over-the-counter medicines.

Alternatively, you could speak to your GP on the telephone or make an appointment.

Minor injuries units and GP out-of-hours services are also available.

If you Choose Well, you will be seen and treated more quickly by the most appropriate person, helping the health service to help you.

  • Jim Wells is Minister for Health

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