HEALTH MATTERS: Helping people get the right care, in the right place

By Democrat reporter

Changes to the way people access A&E will be tested ahead of a national redesign of urgent care to help people get the right care in the right place.

This new approach will keep people and NHS Scotland safe by ensuring A&E provides the fastest and most appropriate care for people when they really need it.

The test will take place in Ayrshire and Arran and while people there should continue to call 999 or go directly to A&E in emergencies, those with non-life threatening conditions who would usually visit A&E should call NHS 24 – day or night – from 3 November. People can also continue to call their GP practice for urgent care or access help online from

NHS 24 will assess people by telephone and will be able to refer them to the right care by the right healthcare professional and as close to home as possible. If A&E is the most appropriate service to provide that care, NHS 24 will make a referral to A&E where a telephone or video consultation may be offered by A&E staff. This will help keep people safe and avoid unnecessary travel to hospital. If a face-to-face consultation is necessary, the nearest A&E may arrange an appointment to avoid waiting in crowded areas wherever possible.

This new approach will be tested throughout November to inform a national launch planned for December. This national change to urgent care will be supported by £20 million of investment and a major public information campaign to enable people to get the right care in the right place.

To ensure they get the right care in the right place from 3 November, people in Ayrshire and Arran should:

  • use the NHS inform website to access advice on common symptoms, guidance for self-help and where to go if further medical care is needed
  • contact their local GP practice during the day for an appointment or over-the-phone advice
  • call 111 day or night when they think they need A&E but it is not life-threatening
  • call 111 and select the Mental Health Hub to access mental health advice and guidance or call the Breathing Space telephone helpline on 0800 83 85 87
  • call 111 or use NHS inform out of hours when they are too ill to wait for their GP practice to open, or for worsening symptoms of COVID-19
  • use to access the location of their local minor injuries unit for non-life threatening but painful injuries such as a deep cut, a broken or sprained ankle or a painful burn injury

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, pictured right,  said:  “The pressure on acute capacity and the need to support infection control as coronavirus  continues to spread means it is vital people get the right care in the right place to help keep people and NHS Scotland safe this winter. The new approach to urgent care will be tested in Ayrshire and Arran so we can learn from patients and local NHS staff, before rolling it out nationally from December.

“This new change 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 for you and your family.”

Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (Scotland) Dr John Thomson said:  “The redesign of Urgent Care will help ensure people with non-life threatening but urgent health problems get the right care in the right place at the right time and help ensure accident and emergency departments do not become crowded again as we continue to deal with COVID-19. By getting the right care in the right place we can support those patients who need emergency care most and ensure our accident and emergency departments always have capacity for the next patient who needs the skill and expertise of emergency physicians and nurses.”

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