A DARLINGTON GP is urging people to think carefully before they visit hospital accident and emergency departments or call 999.

With A&E departments and ambulance services stretched to the limit, Dr Andrea Jones, Chair of Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is urging  people to only dial 999 or visit A&E if they have a life threatening or critical condition.

Dr Jones said: “Winter is the busiest time of the year for the NHS, but we’re seeing a lot of people attending A&E that could receive the advice or treatment they need by accessing a different part of the health service or by treating themselves at home.

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“Things like diarrhoea and vomiting, colds and flu are unpleasant but in many cases can be treated at home with plenty of rest and fluids and over the counter medication from your local pharmacist.”

She recommends people should contact their GP practice if they do not feel better within a few days.

“Naturally, if people have a life threatening or critical condition they should dial 999 as normal," Dr Jones added.

“But in many cases, people are accessing A&E with minor conditions that can be treated either at home with appropriate self care or advice from your local pharmacist."

Darlington CCG is backing the region’s ‘Choose Well’ campaign to select the most appropriate NHS service for the seriousness of their symptoms:

Self care – for minor illnesses, combine over the counter medicines with plenty of rest.

NHS 111 – Can be accessed across County Durham and Darlington 24-hours-a-day for urgent care that isn’t an emergency and your GP surgery is closed.

Pharmacist/Chemist – for advice on illnesses and medicines for coughs, colds, flu, stomach upsets, aches and sprains.

GP practice – for medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses you can’t shake off.

A&E or 999 – for life threatening or critical situations.