More than half of people in North Wales will access NHS services differently in future because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A study by YouGov has revealed 40% of people in the region will carry on in the same way they did before Coronavirus, while the majority of those questioned plan to support new NHS systems introduced over the past 12 months for their safety and social distancing, including virtual assessments.
As part of the Welsh Government’s Help Us, Help You campaign, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) is also encouraging more people to attend Minor Injury Units (MIUs) rather than making Emergency Departments their first port of call, as the nurse-led service is equipped to care for a range of ailments from burns, stings, animal bites and scalp lacerations, to minor limb, eye, and head injuries.
There are nine MIUs in North Wales, sited in Holyhead, Dolgellau, Pwllheli, Tywyn, Llandudno, Holywell, Denbigh, Mold and Tremadog, and while normally no appointment is needed, due to COVID-19 some units request that people call in advance to ensure safety and to be advised on when is best to attend.
Trevor Hubbard, Area Nurse Director for the Central region of BCUHB said there have been advances in the way they operate urgent care services, which has changed the thinking of staff and patients.
“Accessing in a different way is becoming the ‘new normal' and it is there to protect the public and the NHS from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 infection,” said Mr Hubbard.
“The situation has accelerated the use of digital technology so we can manage our services going forward in a positive way.
“Taking MIUs as an example; attendances are lower than Emergency Departments, but patients are nearly always seen, treated and discharged within four hours, with a minimal wait and experienced practitioners offering clinical support and advice directly – the patient experience is very good.”
“I think people in North Wales are aware of MIUs and what they offer, but we do need to shout a little louder about the services they provide.
“It is so important we make sure MIUs are used to reduce pressure on our already busy EDs; they are there for emergencies only so I would ask everyone to consider the other options open to them, including pharmacies, the www.111.wales.nhs.uk website and by calling for advice if the condition is urgent but not serious.”
The YouGov study also found that in Wales, 93% of people surveyed were aware of A&E and the 999 service, compared to only 69% being aware of minor injury units (MIUs).
And while 93% believed that MIUs are important, 89% have not used the service in the last 12 months.
“MIUs have very experienced practitioners able to manage a wide range of injuries, they are highly trained and competent staff offering an excellent level of care,” said Mr Hubbard.
“They are able to request and interpret x-rays and diagnose and treat a variety of conditions all based locally to prevent you travelling long distances to an ED.”
“In North Wales we do have a lot of visitors from across the UK and overseas that are not necessarily used to what an MIU is, how it works and what conditions can be treated there.
“I also think there is differences between individual units and the walk-in centre model in England, which has a broader remit to include illness as well as injury.
“We are working to address this by training our staff to manage a wider variety of conditions, and we will continue to encourage people to please call in advance so you can receive first aid advice and an appointment time to be seen quickly and efficiently by the team without the need to wait – for their safety, and yours.”
For more information on how best to access NHS services, visit www.111.wales.nhs.uk or call 0845 46 47.
Visit www.bcuhb.nhs.wales/health-services/health-services1/where-do-i-go/minor-injury-units/minor-injury-units1 for the latest news and information on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Minor Injury Units.
Please use the hashtags #HelpuNiHelpuChi and #HelpUsHelpYou to support the Help Us, Help You campaign.