THE NHS across the North East is urging people to use its resources wisely and help ease pressure on busy frontline teams.

Health chiefs have appealed to the public to keep hospital emergency departments free for those in immediate need of emergency treatment or life-saving care, not to abuse emergency 999 ambulance services, to ‘think pharmacy first’ for many common winter illnesses, to use extra appointments available through their GP practice and to call NHS 111 or visit for urgent medical advice before attending any frontline services.

Ahead of a busy week of festivities, people are also encouraged to drink sensibly and wrap up warm.

The public awareness campaign which launches today and will run throughout 2020, urges people to ‘think before they act’ and appeals to the public conscience to ask people to consider how they use local health services.

Bosses say the NHS in the region is well prepared for the pressures of seasonal illnesses and to help those vulnerable to ill health during the cold winter months which continue to rise year-on-year, but health staff also need the public’s help to keep emergency services free for those who need them most.

Helen Ray, chief executive of North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and co-chair of the North East and North Cumbria Urgent and Emergency Care Network, said: “We really want people to think about how they are using our precious NHS resources. This is a really busy time of year for us and staff across all parts of the NHS are working incredibly hard so it’s important that we all take responsibility for our actions.

“There is no question that the NHS will always be here for you when you need us most, but we also need your help to act responsibly. Our paramedic teams are under immense pressure and it’s vital that we can free up ambulances to reach those who are in genuine need of immediate life-saving care.

“Over 40 per cent of people who call 999 for an emergency ambulance don’t need to be taken to hospital and there is a common misconception that arriving to hospital by ambulance will mean you get seen quicker. This is simply not true and the NHS will always treat people based on the urgency of their clinical need, not how they arrived at hospital.”

Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer at Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group and co-chair of the North East and North Cumbria’s Urgent and Emergency Care Network, said: “We are appealing to the goodwill of people across the region to help our busy NHS teams and really take some personal accountability for how they use services.

“Our NHS provides a fantastic service but we need people to respect it and use it properly. We know there are still hundreds of instances of people accessing hospital emergency services for relatively minor problems which can be easily treated by other parts of the NHS.

“We really want people to stop and think about how they use services so that those in genuine need of an emergency ambulance or life-saving care get the help they need. Our amazing NHS staff are under intense pressure and doing a fantastic job caring for seriously ill people, but they need your support more than ever before.”