Covid Scotland: Sore feet, earache and insect bites - A&E doctors beg those with minor ailments to stay away

Fresh calls have been made for people to stay away from accident and emergency (A&E) departments with non-urgent complaints, as hospitals struggle to cope with a surge in demand.

Doctors in NHS Lanarkshire said people had been turning up with with ailments which would be better treated elsewhere, including insect bites, sore feet, earache and chronic back pain.

A&E is only for life-threatening emergencies, they said, asking people to use other services such as calling 111 or using the NHS Inform website.

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Visits to A&E have risen to pre-pandemic levels in recent weeks. Last week saw the worst performance on waiting times since December.

Calvin Lightbody, A&E consultant at University Hospital HairmyresCalvin Lightbody, A&E consultant at University Hospital Hairmyres
Calvin Lightbody, A&E consultant at University Hospital Hairmyres

Staff have also faced abusive behaviour from patients failing to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.

Health boards across Scotland have warned of services under very heavy demand, exacerbated by high numbers of staff self-isolating.

GPs have also warned they are struggling under increased workloads in the community, meaning some patients may make an unnecessary visit to A&E when faced with long waiting times.

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Calvin Lightbody, A&E consultant at University Hospital Hairmyres, said: “Over the last few weeks, our A&E departments have been as busy as any time I can remember in recent years, with numbers extremely high for a sustained period. We had nearly 700 patients in a single day last week across the three hospitals.

“We are seeing a number of seriously ill and critically ill patients with urgent issues such as chest pain, strokes and serious bleeding. However, we are also seeing a number of conditions that would be best treated elsewhere, such as long-standing back pain, sore feet, minor rashes, earache and insect bites.

“These issues shouldn’t be in A&E in the first place. Our A&E department is for those who have a life-threatening emergency. If you think you need to attend A&E, but it’s not life-threatening, you should consider the alternatives."

Mr Lightbody said A&E departments are there for those who need them and people with a genuine emergency should not hesitate in visiting.

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Judith Park, director of acute services, said a minority of patients have been “engaging in behaviours and attitudes that are completely unacceptable” in the face of Covid-related limits on patients being accompanied to A&E.

"Any form of violent or aggressive behaviour towards our staff will not be tolerated,” she said.

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