Scottish Government urges people to avoid A&E unless they have 'life-threatening' conditions

The Scottish Government is urging people to avoid A&E unless they have a ‘life-threatening’ condition to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed this winter.

While health bosses insist local A&E departments will remain open for those who need it, people with non-life threatening conditions are being advised to call NHS 24 instead.

The phone service will then either recommend patients go to A&E if it is the right place for them, or direct them to alternative services to relieve the pressure on hospitals and crowded waiting areas.

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Telephone and video consultations with a senior clinician may also be arranged by NHS 24 as part of the strategy, and that could then see a patient offered an appointment to attend at A&E, again to avoid crowding for long periods of time in hospital waiting rooms.

Patients are asked only to go to A&E if it is 'life threatening'.Patients are asked only to go to A&E if it is 'life threatening'.
Patients are asked only to go to A&E if it is 'life threatening'.
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The Scottish Government said that it was important that people get the ‘right care in the right place’, with the public being asked to use the NHS website, phone NHS 24 on 111 or contact their local GP during the day if they require medical advice or assistance.

NHS 24 can also transfer patients to a Mental Health Hub and minor injury units for complaints such as deep cuts, a broken or sprained ankle or a painful burn injury.

For those seeking mental health advice, Breathing Space, a confidential phone line for those feeling anxious or depressed, is also available.

Announcing the move, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “The NHS is always there for you. However, for many of us, A&E is not the right place for the care we need.

"That is why we are making it easier to get the right care in the right place.

"From December, if you think you need to go to A&E for care that is not life-threatening, the NHS 24 telephone service on 111 will be available day and night to direct you to the care you need.

“Your GP Practice is also always there for you and can be contacted for urgent but non-life threatening conditions.

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"However, in an emergency, you should continue to call 999 or go to your nearest A&E department.

“By doing so, we will continue to help our doctors and nurses through this pandemic, and ensure A&E provides the fastest and most appropriate care for people when they really need it.

"Help us keep you and our NHS safe by making the right call at the right time to access the right care in the right place for you and your family.”

Those with life-threatening conditions including suspected heart attacks, strokes, severe breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, or severe injury should continue to go straight to A&E or call 999 for an ambulance.

The Scottish Government says the “new way of delivering urgent care”, supported by a £20 million funding package, had been designed to help people get the right care in the right place at time when there is increased pressure on NHS services.

Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 should not attend A&E and should adhere to public health advice. They should contact the NHS to arrange to be tested - either online at, or by calling 0800 028 2816.

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