Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Cold sufferers told to avoid A&E

Flu sufferer
People with colds or flu are urged to contact a pharmacist or NHS Direct

Health officials in Hull have warned that people with coughs and colds using urgent care services could be putting other patients' lives at risk.

In the past six weeks, 64 people went to accident and emergency units with a cold, headache or flu, said NHS Hull.

In November, the city's GP out-of-hours service took 550 calls from people with coughs, colds and sore throats.

One local GP said: "They could prevent potentially life-threatening cases from getting the treatment they need."

A spokesman for NHS Hull said: "It appears that many people are ignoring appeals from health professionals to manage such basic symptoms at home."

It is concerning to see that people still turn up at A&E for treatment advice for simple respiratory tract infections
Dr Brian Cook, Hull GP

Dr Brian Cook, who works for the out-of-hours service, said: "Viral infections such as coughs, colds and sore throats are very common at this time of year - most of us will experience one or more of these at some point during the winter.

"The good news is that it is easy to relieve the symptoms using cough and cold remedies which are available over the pharmacy counter.

"Such conditions are easy to manage at home, and pharmacists are qualified to advise patients on appropriate remedies.

"It is concerning to see that people still turn up at A&E or use the out-of-hours GP service for treatment advice for simple respiratory tract infections.

"Doing so could prevent other more serious and sometimes potentially life-threatening cases from getting the treatment they need quickly.

"At the same time, this behaviour risks spreading the infections to others."

Dr David Hepburn, medical director for Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust, said: "The winter months are always a busy period for the hospital and therefore it is more important than ever that people use services appropriately.

"A&E is not a faster way to be treated if you have a cold or a sore throat - in many cases it will take longer."

He said calling into a pharmacy or ringing NHS Direct for advice was a more appropriate course of action.



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