SOUTHAMPTON doctors are calling on better awareness of health services available on weekends and over bank holidays following a surge after Easter.

Officials at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust have claimed there has been "unprecedented numbers" of patients attending the emergency department over the past two weeks.

This week has seen the numbers reach almost 400 on some days – around 70 to 80 more patients than would normally be expected at this time of the year.

“We have seen an extremely high level of attendance in our emergency department since the end of the Easter weekend and, with another bank holiday ahead of us, we could see a similar situation develop over the next two weeks,” said Dr Caroline Marshall, chief operating officer at UHS.

“From the feedback we are receiving from patients and families, many remain unaware of the availability of healthcare services in the community over weekends and on bank holidays, while others choose to delay seeking help until the start of the working week.

“The issues with this are immense, with increased numbers of people with worsening symptoms attending our emergency department directly but also being referred by GPs who are seeing these patients when they are already in need of hospital care.

“The knock-on effect of this is that people who are already unwell suffer a worsening of symptoms, while our emergency department and services throughout the hospital trust come under huge additional strain.”

She added: “As a healthcare system, we must do more to raise awareness of these issues and the alternatives available to ensure people have as much information as possible about what healthcare services are out there for them.”

Dr Marshall said the public should be reminded care is available throughout weekends and on bank holidays through GP hubs which provide appointments every day, by dialling 111 for non-emergencies, via minor injuries units and at pharmacies.

As well as this most GP practices offer both telephone triage with a GP and an increased number of urgent appointments at the start of the week, particularly following a bank holiday period.