THE chief of the Welsh NHS has urged people to help ease pressure on the health service during its busiest time of year.
The New Year is usually the busiest time of year for the NHS, particularly in emergency departments. Health boards have already reported caring for more acutely unwell patients than normal this year.
Health boards have asked people not to visit people in hospital if they have flu-like symptoms, to protect patients within hospitals.
The NHS has seen a sharp rise in confirmed cases of flu, covid and other viral respiratory infections admitted to hospitals this December. Up-to-date information on visiting arrangements will be available on health board and trusts’ websites or social media.
The NHS 111 Wales helpline has also experienced unprecedented demand, with a record number of calls received in one day on Tuesday, December 27.
People who are not well have been asked to visit the NHS 111 Wales website, which includes a symptom checker, before calling 111, and not attend emergency departments unless absolutely necessary.
People are asked to only call 111 if they have urgent symptoms that require treatment that day. The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, which runs the 111 website and helpline, has advised that callers may experience longer waiting times than normal, potentially several hours.
Patients needing repeat prescriptions are advised to visit a community pharmacy when they are next open. Pharmacies can supply up to 30 days of most repeat medication in an emergency without a prescription. Details of pharmacies open in Wales over the bank holiday are available on the NHS 111 Wales website.
Judith Paget, chief executive of the Welsh NHS, said: “This winter our NHS is facing demand like we’ve never seen before. It’s absolutely vital therefore that we all think carefully about what we do as individuals to reduce pressure on our health service.
“Our Emergency Departments especially are there to help those who need the most urgent care in the shortest possible time, so please consider whether you need to attend, or if there are alternative options, such as visiting the NHS 111 Wales website.
“We can also prepare for minor illnesses or injuries by ensuring we have essential medicines available in our homes, such as paracetamol, and a first aid kit, should we need it.
“Thank you also to families who have supported the discharge of their loved ones so they could be home for Christmas. The ongoing support of families in this way helps us greatly in ensuring that hospital beds are used for people who need the specialist care that only our hospitals can provide.
“We all have a role in protecting our health service, so let’s all think carefully and do what we can to support our nurses, doctors and all NHS staff this winter.”