NHS bosses in Devon are appealing to people to help choose the right health service as the county remains under pressure following the longest period of strike action.
All the county’s hospitals, including Torbay and Exeter, are expected to be under pressure for at least this week as the health service deals with the backlog following the six day action by junior doctors.
The level of escalation for the NHS in Devon was lowered yesterday, after reaching the highest level last Friday 5 January.
Despite this, all four acute hospitals in Devon remain under a significant amount of pressure although the industrial action ended at 7am on Tuesday.
Anthony Fitzgerald, Chief Delivery Officer for NHS Devon, said: 'It is still critical that those needing emergency or life-saving care contact 999 or attend ED but we ask everyone else to choose the best service for their medical need.
‘If your condition isn’t life-threatening, consider 111, your GP or local pharmacy first.
‘Just because this period of strikes by junior doctors have ended, it doesn’t mean we are back on track - the usual January pressures are still in full force.
‘We have entered a period of extremely cold weather which means winter illnesses and infections are spreading quickly.’
To prevent the spread of winter illnesses, some hospital wards in Devon are still closed, which further reduces capacity at an already exceptionally busy time.
People should also be prepared that they may be asked to do something different this week, as a patient or a visitor.
Measures such as some hospitals reducing visiting hours or re-directing people from hospital emergency departments to other services which are more appropriate for their medical needs, if it is safe to do so, may be kept in place.
Local people can do their bit by continuing to call 999 in emergency and life-threatening cases when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk
Go to NHS 111 online if you need medical help or advice, or you are unsure about whether you should go to hospital; you can also phone 111
Please check local hospital trust websites for information on Minor Injury Units and Urgent Treatment Centres.
Play your part by taking simple steps during the cold weather to look after yourselves and loved ones, checking in on vulnerable family members and neighbours. A first step is making sure your medicine cabinet is well-stocked.
Please pick up loved ones who are ready to be discharged from hospital.
Make use of community pharmacies, which can advise on minor illnesses and provide medications.