The chief executive of NHS Wales is asking the public to choose the “right health service for their needs”, as part of a new national campaign to reduce winter pressures
The annual Choose Well campaign encourages people to “think about how they use their NHS and find the right health service for their illness or injury”.
It asks people to only go to accident and emergency or to dial 999 if they have a life-threatening condition which needs immediate medical attention.
“Self-care is the best option for treating the minor illnesses and injuries which account for a very large proportion of what health workers deal with”
It highlights examples as persistent or severe chest pain or if someone is choking, blacking out, has major blood loss which can’t be stopped or has suffered a suspected stroke.
The new campaign cites the importance of self-care in dealing with many minor illnesses and ailments, which can be treated at home with over-the-counter medicines and advice.
It also directs people to free help available in local communities from NHS Direct Wales, GP surgeries, pharmacies, opticians and minor injury units.
The campaign will include digital and traditional adverts, a social media campaign, posters and leaflets.
Figures show a significant number of people are still opting to call 999 or visit accident and emergency instead of using more appropriate NHS services for their needs.
For example, around one in three 999 calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service are non-urgent and between 70-80% of patients who attended A&E in Wales in 2014-15 were not admitted.
NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall said: “Our A&E departments alone see one million people a year.
“However, self-care is the best option for treating the minor illnesses and injuries which account for a very large proportion of what health workers deal with,” said Dr Goodall. “The vast majority of medical conditions do not need emergency care.
“There are a large number of easy-to-access services which can help people get the right care at the right time,” he added. “Making the right decision will not only help people get treated in the most appropriate way quickly, but it also means our health service’s resources are being used in the most efficient way.”
“It is essential that the public back this campaign and help alleviate the pressures of our over-stretched health service and its workers”
The Royal College of Nursing in Wales said it supported the campaign.
RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly said: “We are acutely aware that during this challenging period there are increased pressures on acute care in the NHS.
“We must also remember that numbers of health care professionals working over this period remains the same as any other time of year – sometimes even less due to the holiday season,” she said.
“With news that we are to have one of our worst winters for decades, and the ever-present demands on the NHS, it is essential that the public back this campaign and help alleviate the pressures of our over-stretched health service and its workers,” she added.