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Minority of patients misusing the service
DOCTORS in the Basingstoke area are appealing for patients to think twice before calling the out-of-hours service after being plagued by reports of minor problems including head lice, worms and lack of contraceptive pills.
The service, supposed to be used for urgent medical care, is being misused by a minority of patients, prompting concerns that the unnecessary calls may be stopping others from getting access to emergency medical care.
Doctors are warning that the health service has only finite resources and that the use of correct services by patients prevents the whole system from “going into meltdown”.
The problem is being highlighted as part of the Help Us to Help You campaign, which is being run by North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and supported by The Gazette.
Dr Hugh Freeman, chair of the North Hampshire CCG said: “We know the NHS can be a confusing maze.
“Knowing where to go to get the right help at the right time isn’t always easy. We really want to urge patients to think before they ring the out of hours emergency service and ask themselves if it is really appropriate.
“Calling for lice or worm treatment isn’t an emergency. This could have been dealt with by one of the many excellent pharmacies we have in Basingstoke.”
The out-of-hours service is accessed via NHS helpline 111, a system which itself has been under fire for directing patients to the wrong places.
The CCG is urging patients to take their share of responsibility by considering whether or not their condition is serious enough to warrant making that call.
Dr Freeman said: “Some patients are confused by what is urgent. One example is an illness that has been going on for three or four days that you have tried to self-manage but which is getting worse. That would be an appropriate time to get an appointment with your GP or out-of-hours service.
“If you are worried, unsure and really think the problem can’t wait until your surgery is open, then the 111 team will guide and advise.
“We want everyone to be as safe and healthy as possible but if we could all think about whether we really need to make that out-of-hours call, we can keep the NHS in good shape for the next 65 years.”
He added: “In surgery hours, it is best to see your GP, and out-of-hours, ask yourself if the problem is urgent and if it isn’t, then wait until your GP practice is open.
“Our message is always to see your GP first. Good primary care is a finite resource and this is unlikely to change in the near future. Wise use of the correct part of the service protects the rest of the service from meltdown.”
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