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Blog: What do you do when you urgently need the NHS?

14 Mar 2016

Urgent and emergency care services are for when you have a health problem which requires immediate attention, whether it’s a minor injury or a life-threatening emergency. These services are a crucial part of our health care system and we depend on them to be there when we need them.

It’s important to understand the distinction between “urgent” and “emergency”. Emergency care services are for when you have a serious or life-threatening illness or injury and should go to Accident and Emergency (A&E) immediately, while urgent care services are for when your illness or injury is not life-threatening but you cannot wait to be seen routinely.

Urgent and emergency care is provided by a range of different services, including your GP, pharmacies, NHS 111, walk-in centres, the GP out of hours service, 999 and A&E departments.

That’s a lot to choose from and we know people sometimes struggle to decide which service is right for them.  This often leads to people choosing what appears to be the easiest option – the local A&E - rather than the most appropriate service for their needs.

But if you go to A&E with a fairly minor concern, you can sometimes find yourself with a lengthy wait on your hands while more seriously ill people are seen before you. We know this can be frustrating but it needn’t be as there are so many alternatives available. 

We want to make it easier to find your way around urgent and emergency care services, so you can be confident that you are getting the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

In some cases this might mean changing the way patients access services. For example, we are looking at whether Urgent Care Centres, which offer a wide range of services under one roof for conditions that aren’t life-threatening, could be a good solution for patients in Liverpool. 

In other cases, it might mean doing more with what we already have. For example, it’s thought that around 80% of health conditions could be treated at home, so we’re looking at how we can promote tools like the NHS Choices website, the NHS 111 phone service and the expert care and advice available at local pharmacies, so you know where to get extra support and information when it makes sense for you to deal with an illness or injury yourself. 

We know some people have problems getting an appointment with their GP, so we’re working to improve this. We’re also looking at how the ambulance service can play a greater role in providing treatment without the need for a hospital visit (see the video below for more), and directing people to more suitable services if it’s found that a paramedic isn’t actually required.

Our urgent and emergency care services are what we rely on in times of need, usually when we are at our most anxious and vulnerable, so we want to make sure we get this right and that we shape our service to meet the needs of you, the people of Liverpool. To do this we need to hear your views, which you can share by completing our survey or attending one of our events.

By Dr Fiona Lemmens, GP and Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care at NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group.


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