As tourists and day trippers prepare to descend on North Wales this summer, NHS leaders urged them to access treatment safely and alleviate pressure on medical staff.
The COVID-19 pandemic will see people across the UK opt for a ‘staycation’ rather than travelling abroad in the months ahead, which means the region’s population will rise significantly, putting added strain on hospital workers.
As part of the Welsh Government’s Help Us, Help You campaign, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board asks visitors to think twice before attending an Emergency Department or calling 999 with non-life-threatening conditions.
Instead, people are encouraged to call 111 free from a landline or mobile phone, where they will receive 24-hour support and guidance.
There is also the NHS 111 Wales website – which includes an online symptom checker and details of which common complaints and conditions to look out for – community pharmacies, and Minor Injury Units (MIUs) which deal with a range of injuries from burns, stings, animal bites and scalp lacerations, to minor limb, eye, and head injuries.
Dr Chris Stockport, Executive Director of Primary and Community Services, encouraged anyone with health concerns to contact these platforms in the first instance.
“As COVID-19 restrictions ease and we approach the school holidays there will be a major increase in the number of people in this region,” said Dr Stockport.
“Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic we have embraced digital technology and virtual services, and with the 111 phone number now available to patients in North Wales there are several ways people can get in touch to access the NHS safely.
“That in turn will alleviate pressure on healthcare staff, lower waiting times and save vital resources when we need them most.”
He added: “By calling 111 you will receive all the expert support you need, and if an appointment or out-of-hours assessment is necessary that can be arranged. If it is an emergency then you should call 999 or visit the nearest hospital, but only in an emergency.
“And if you take medication regularly, please remember to bring it with you.”
Holiday camps, tourism operators, hoteliers and businesses in the hospitality industry are asked to share the message with guests and help reduce pressure on healthcare workers this summer.
Jim Jones, CEO of North Wales Tourism, echoed those words and added:
“We are expecting the summer holidays to be exceptionally busy this year, which is very welcome and just what our industry needs after such a challenging time.
“Whilst enjoyment in our beautiful region is what we want visitors to experience, we also want them to be aware of how to get help if they run into any medical difficulty.
“The easiest and quickest way to receive medical support is to phone 111 rather than turning up direct at hospital emergency departments, so please heed that advice and help our NHS staff here in North Wales when visiting the area.”
NHS 111 Wales is staffed by a large team of nurses, medics, and pharmacists, plus dozens of trained call handlers. The service is operated by the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust from bases across Wales, including a large centre in St Asaph.
For more information on how best to access NHS services, call 111 or visit www.111.wales.nhs.uk.