Winter is traditionally the busiest time of year for the NHS, and so people are being reminded to only use emergency departments in Oxford and Banbury in an emergency.

There are a range of alternative options available for non-emergency situations to ensure you get the appropriate care you need and save an unnecessary trip to the emergency department (A&E).

Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and system urgent care lead for Oxfordshire, said: “Winter is always a time of high pressure for Emergency Departments nationally and our hospitals are no different – we are currently very busy.

“The increased acuity of patients coming to our emergency departments at the John Radcliffe and Horton General hospitals is reflected in the increased number of ED patients being admitted to hospital for treatment.  On average, 300 – 400 patients are coming to our Emergency Departments every day this winter.

“We are monitoring this situation daily to make sure that we deploy staff to provide support where it’s most needed and to provide care in the safest way possible, and our staff are working extremely hard across all services.”

Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, GP and urgent care lead, said: “We would urge people to attend emergency departments in an emergency only – GPs, pharmacists, and minor injuries units can all provide support for several conditions and injuries.  NHS 111 can also put people in touch with medical professionals and signpost people to the most appropriate support.

“We are working hard with our health and social care system colleagues to deliver a ‘home first’ approach, and help patients leave hospital and receive care closer to home – allowing staff to care for patients who genuinely need to be in hospital.”

What’s available?

 Self-care is the best choice for minor illnesses and injuries – a range of common winter ailments can be treated at home with a well-stocked medicine cabinet.  Having a winter plan – such as keeping stocked up on medicines, keeping your home warm, and looking out for neighbours – can also be beneficial.

Local pharmacies can give advice on several conditions, such as coughs, headaches, upset stomachs, and skin conditions, as well as advise on stopping coughs and colds from getting worse.

NHS 111 has call handlers who can help you choose the right health services for your needs, as well as a website.   NHS 111 can put you in touch with a clinician, a GP, book you an appointment at your nearest minor injuries unit.

Minor injuries units operate at three of the county’s community hospitals – at Abingdon, Witney and Henley. They have x-ray facilities and a range of specialists who can treat people for a range of injuries – from broken bones, severe sprains, deep cuts, eye injuries, minor head injuries and minor burns and scalds. See here for more details

First Aid Units are at Bicester, Wallingford and Chipping Norton hospitals and offer the same multi-skilled teams as MIUs without x-ray facilities.See here for more details

Your local GP may offer extended opening hours into the evening or at the weekend.

Most importantly, only attend Emergency Departments when there is a genuine emergency, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attack or stroke, severe breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped.

People are reminded to download Oxfordshire CCG’s free smartphone app which signposts to local health services such as GP practices, pharmacies and minor injuries units. ‘Health and Care Oxfordshire’ uses digital mapping to allow people to find their nearest health service, wherever they are in the county.  You can download it via the Apple store, or via Google Play.

You can visit the Oxfordshire CCG winter campaign for more information on local health services.