Concern over NHS pressure over the Bank Holiday weekend

Many GP surgeries will be closed for four days over the long weekend and some pharmacies could be shut.

02 June 2022

Medics have raised concerns over additional pressures in the NHS over the extended bank holiday weekend.

Extra strain could lead to longer ambulance waits and long stays in emergency departments, the Society for Acute Medicine said.

Many GP surgeries will be closed for four days over the long weekend and some pharmacies could be shut.

Meanwhile an ambulance service has already urged people use services “wisely” over the weekend.

NHS leaders have advised people to use the NHS 111 online service which can signpost them to where their needs can be addressed.

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “There is certainly concern going into the extended bank holiday period but that is largely because pressures are – and have been for some time – at unsustainable levels, so there is no give in the system.

“We do know lengthy bank holidays usually cause an increase in pressure on the frontline of the NHS as over the period there will be fewer options for alternative and routine care and this presents problems with urgent and acute services already so stretched.

“Additional challenges the bank holiday may bring will just exacerbate what is already an extremely serious situation with an all too familiar picture dominating the NHS landscape, starting with prolonged waits for ambulances and long stays in emergency departments and acute medical units.”

Meanwhile the Welsh Ambulance Service said it was expecting a rise in demand.

Judith Bryce, assistant director of operations for the service, said: “We’re delighted to be celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and want people to have a safe and enjoyable celebration.

“We always see an uplift in demand as people take advantage of the long weekend, and this weekend is expected to be no different.

“More people are out and about socialising with family and friends, and this can lead to more people becoming ill or suffering injuries and requiring medical attention.

“While there are plans in place to deal with the increase in demand, we only have a limited number of crews and vehicles available which means that we need to prioritise those sickest patients first.

“It also means that people not facing a serious or life-threatening emergency could wait longer for a response or be asked to seek alternatives to an ambulance response.”

Professor Sir Stephen Powis sought to reassure the public, saying that the service “remains available to everyone”.

The national medical director for the NHS in England said: “While families and friends up and down the country take part in Jubilee celebrations, we want to reassure you that despite various pressures staff are working hard to ensure NHS care remains available for everyone.

“If you need any help or advice then please do come forward – the NHS 111 online service can signpost you to the best place for your health needs.”

The NHS in England said anyone who calls NHS 111 will be given an assessment and then referred to where they can get suitable treatment, which could be their local pharmacy, their GP or a timed appointment at an A&E department.

But it added that anyone who needs to should still attend A&E for serious medical help.

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