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NHS HIGHLAND: Here's how you can help reduce waiting times at Inverness A&E

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By Dr Mike Rennie

Raigmore Hospital's A&E. Picture: Medical Illustration
Raigmore Hospital's A&E. Picture: Medical Illustration

This winter poses additional challenges to health and social cares services across Highland, and we are already seeing an increase in ambulance offload waits, waits to be seen in the emergency department and extended waits for patients requiring admission to a hospital bed.

As a health professional working in the emergency department in Raigmore Hospital, we see many of the challenges that this time of year presents for teams working across health and social care.

The pressures we have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic are well known, however we continue to experience significant pressure on all areas of our services and our patients.

The emergency department is open 24/7 for emergencies such as a suspected heart attack or stroke, and we always prioritise those patients with the greatest clinical need. This may mean that some patients can wait longer than we would like.

If you go directly to our emergency department and it is not the most appropriate place for your care, we will safely direct you to a more appropriate service.

If you think your need is urgent but not an emergency, NHS 24 is available by calling 111. In many of our remote and rural areas we have doctors and advanced practitioners working out-of-hours who may be able to serve your needs closer to home.

NHS 24 will guide you to the best source of care which may include self-care, pharmacy, GP out of hours, minor injuries unit or the emergency department. In some circumstances NHS 24 may be able to schedule your attendance at these services, saving you time.

NHS 24 can also help if your GP or dental practice is closed and you cannot wait until they reopen.

The NHS Inform website also provides accurate and reliable information to help you make informed decisions about your health needs. The online symptom checker can provide detailed guidance on how to treat many common symptoms such as fever or vomiting and direct you to where to go if you need further care.

There are a range of services across NHS Highland which can help patients with minor illness or injuries and minimise long waits in the emergency department.

Community pharmacies across our area should be your first stop if you have a minor illness such as a cold, upset stomach or general aches and pains.

Dr Mike Rennie.
Dr Mike Rennie.

Please take the time to check on your elderly relatives, friends and neighbours at this time of year, and make sure they are staying warm, eating well and staying hydrated.

If you are registered with a GP practice in Scotland, you can use the Pharmacy First service at any NHS pharmacy. This service offers advice, treatment or referrals to other healthcare teams if required. You can find details of your nearest pharmacy on our website.

If you are eligible to be vaccinated against Covid and or flu, I would advise taking up this option to both benefit yourself and the health service. If you are symptomatic of a Covid or flu-like illness please do what you can to minimise sharing this with others.

Looking after yourself and others can help us to look after those who need it most this winter.

Dr Mike Rennie is the service clinical director for the emergency department at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

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