City’s NHS chiefs become latest to warn of worsening pressures on A&E

HOSPITAL chiefs have issued a new plea to people to access alternatives to A&E services as demand for care continues to soar.

A walk-in centre for people with minor ailments will open longer hours from today in Sheffield as the city’s casualty unit is the latest in the region to come under pressure.

Last night officials said the department at the Northern General Hospital was continuing to see a “considerably high number of patients” which was making waiting times for treatment longer than usual.

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Patients with non-serious illnesses or injuries were being urged to attend the walk-in unit in Broad Lane in the city centre or the minor injuries unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

The walk-in centre is extending its opening hours to midnight due to the extra demand on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays until the end of January.

A free courtesy bus is being run from A&E to the walk-in centre and minor injuries unit which officials said were able to treat patients more quickly in most cases.

Michael Harper, chief operating officer at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “A&E is for emergencies only and doctors must prioritise seeing the sickest patients with serious and life threatening conditions first.

“We want to ensure all patients get the most timely treatment possible and we hope people will support us by choosing the most appropriate place to go for treatment according to the severity of their conditions. We hope the shuttle bus and additional opening hours at the walk-in centre will help us in managing the extra demand.”

Hospital chiefs in York and Hull have also issued pleas in recent days to local people to think twice before visiting A&E amid warnings of unprecedented demand for care and increasing cases of winter vomiting viruses.

National figures on Tuesday are expected to reveal the full scale of the crisis gripping the NHS over the Christmas period.