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Hospital Emergency Departments are for emergencies, contact your local GP or 111 with routine concerns

People in Plymouth and surrounding areas are being reminded that face-to-face GP appointments are still available, as the Emergency Department (ED) at Derriford Hospital is currently reporting high demand.

So far in April, the county as a whole is averaging over 800 attendances a day at ED – sometimes known as Accident and Emergency (A&E) – almost double the level for this time last year and at times exceeding pre-Covid levels.

With capacity at ED much reduced due to the need for social distancing and added infection control measures, local people are being reminded that Emergency Departments are for emergencies and that other options are available.

For non-urgent or routine care, people are advised to visit their local pharmacy or contact their GP surgery as usual.

If practice lines are busy, please keep trying, or you can use an online consultation to contact them at any time.

To protect you and your practice’s staff, you are likely to be offered a telephone, online or video consultation in the first instance but your GP will give you a face-to-face appointment at the practice if they determine you need one.

If you do need to visit for an appointment, your practice will tell you everything you need to know when you come and what measures are in place to keep you safe

If your GP thinks you need to be referred to hospital for review or treatment, they will arrange this.

Dr Alex Degan, a GP in Devon and Medical Director for primary care in the county, said: “In most cases when a patient contacts their local practice, doctors will talk to them by phone, video or online in the first instance.

“This enables a faster response and remains important for safety. Many of our patients find it more convenient too.

“If your doctor needs to see you in person, they will do – face-to-face appointments are still happening across Devon where they are needed.”

Phone and online consultations were increasingly being used before the Covid-19 pandemic and have become more widely used over the last year, with many patients praising them for reducing the need to travel.

Meanwhile, doctors in Plymouth are reminding residents and visitors this bank holiday weekend that if you need urgent medical advice, there’s just one number to remember – 111.

By contacting 111 first, people will get quicker and safer access to NHS services when they need urgent care.

Those contacting 111 who need emergency medical care from a hospital Emergency Department (also known as A&E) will be given direct access to the department. If the issue would be better dealt with in a Minor Injury Unit, GP surgery or other urgent care site, patients will be able to be booked in directly. These improvements will ensure that people get to the right place for treatment quickly and should reduce waiting times.

People should continue to call 999 and attend ED if they believe they have a serious illness, for example if they or a loved one see the signs of stroke, severe chest pain or worsening asthma. And if you have been invited to the hospital for an appointment, it’s important that you go.

Pharmacists advise and treat illnesses like hay fever, diarrhoea, earache, painful cough, sticky eye, teething and rashes – and by visiting your pharmacy you can avoid an unnecessary trip to your GP or ED and save time. Find your nearest pharmacy here: www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy   

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