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Bradford and Airedale prepare for 'worst winter yet'

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Bradford Royal Infirmary and Airedale General Hospital have drawn up winter plans to prepare for what one senior consultant warned could be the “worst winter yet” for NHS accident and emergency departments.

More than 1,000 frontline staff at Airedale have had flu vaccinations and the telemedicine service is being rolled out to 50 extra nursing and residential care homes across the district on a 15-month trial to help relieve pressure on urgent care services.

Yesterday Bernadette Garrihy, a member of the board of the College of Emergency Medicine, said Government measures to ease the pressure on A&E amounted to “a drop in the ocean” and warned that doctors were concerned about their ability to provide “a safe and quality service” this winter.

She said that a combination of soaring demand, a shortage of doctors and “toxic” overcrowding on hospital wards would make pressure worse and could amount to the “worst winter yet” for A&E departments Her warning also comes as figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that Bradford and Airedale Teaching PCT, which includes Bradford Royal Infirmary, Airedale General Hospital, St Luke’s hospital, and Lynfield Mount hospital, show a 16 per cent rise in hospital admissions from 2007-08 to 2012-13.

They rose from 139,396 to 162,155. They include emergency admissions.

Dr Garrihy said part of the A&E problem was caused by patients

going to casualty departments with problems that could be dealt with elsewhere, such as in a GP surgery.

Andrew Catto, executive medical director at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said choosing the right place to go for NHS treatment would ensure that people got the right care, as soon as possible. “Accident and Emergency (A&E) is for accidents and emergencies only, such as severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, significant head injuries and broken bones,” he said.

“For advice on common complaints such as upset stomachs, coughs, colds, aches and sprains and the best medicines to treat them your pharmacist can give you expert advice without an appointment or visit www.nhs.uk.

“We expect the coming winter to be challenging and have prepared a winter plan so that we can accommodate the expected increase in seasonal demand and, if the winter is particularly harsh, we are able to alter it if necessary.”

A Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “A review of our emergency care pathway has taken place to ensure that we continue to offer our patients an excellent service, while innovations such as virtual wards and teams of occupational therapists in the emergency department continue to play an important part in meeting additional demand.

“We would urge people who don’t have an obvious life-threatening illness or injury to access advice from non-emergency organisations such as calling 111 or by contacting their local pharmacist, GP surgery, or by visiting a walk-in centre for treatment.”

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