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04 January 2017

Think twice before using A&E

Following a post-Christmas surge in numbers seeking emergency care, health leaders are urging people to use A&E only for serious and life-threatening emergencies.

The local NHS has been placed on system-wide escalation status (known as OPEL 4) due to high levels of demand for local health services including in particular emergency services at Southmead Hospital, Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI), Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and Weston General Hospital.

System escalation status means that there is severe pressure on services across the health and social care system requiring decisive action by all parts of the system to maintain safe, clinical services.

Local health and care partners have implemented agreed plans to manage demand and restore capacity across the system. Measures include redeploying staff to emergency departments, opening up extra beds wherever possible, rescheduling routine hospital appointments and operations and increasing capacity in community and primary healthcare.

Residents are also being encouraged to help manage pressures by choosing the most appropriate services for their needs and using A&E for serious and life-threatening conditions only.

Alternatives to A&E

A wide range of local NHS services are available offering fast, local treatment and advice for minor injuries and illnesses. They include pharmacies, out-of-hours GP services, minor injuries units and walk-in centres and the NHS 111 advice line.

Help and advice on getting the right care, first time is available from the NHS 111 service or local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group websites at, or

The websites include comprehensive information about local services as well as self-care advice for patients and carers and further advice for parents caring for poorly children is available by downloading the free paediatric HANDi App.

Free NHS 'service finder' smartphone apps for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, offering on-the-go advice and guidance on finding a local NHS service, are also available to download from the Android and Apple app stores.

  • Minor injuries units are available in Bristol, Clevedon and Yate for fast, local treatment of minor injuries such as strains, sprains and broken bones, without needing a trip to A&E. They're available seven days a week. Dial 111 for details.
  • Bristol also has a walk-in centre at 59 Broadmead and an urgent care centre at South Bristol Community Hospital, offering the same services as minor injuries units as well as help with minor illnesses and emergency contraception and advice.
  • The NHS 111 service is available for people who urgently need medical help or advice, but it's not a life-threatening situation. It's available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is free to call from a mobile or landline.
  • A&E and 999 are for serious, life-threatening conditions such as loss of consciousness, heavy blood loss, severe chest pain, head injuries or a suspected stroke or heart attack. In these circumstances, don't hesitate - call 999 for immediate assistance.
  • For advice on choosing or locating a service, call 111, free, at any time or visit your local NHS website.