Our emergency departments (EDs) and hospitals are under extreme pressure right now – and we expect them to continue to be very busy over the coming months.

We absolutely don’t want our patients to be waiting for long periods of time and our teams are working hard to ensure people coming to ED are seen as quickly as possible. But right now – like all parts of the NHS – we are not always able to provide the level of care we would like, and we are very sorry this is the case.

There are things we are doing to try to ease pressures – such as deploying trained staff from non-patient facing roles, supporting elderly and frail people in their homes to avoid ED admissions, introducing a “hospital at home” and remote monitoring service, opening additional beds up on wards, and freeing up beds by working to discharge people as soon as they are medically fit.

We are also prioritising patients who are most in need of clinical care, which means those who are the sickest or most seriously injured will be seen more quickly.

It’s still really important you continue to come forward for the care you need. If it’s an emergency or life-threatening, then please dial 999 or go to an emergency department as normal.

However, we need your help, too. Our emergency departments aren’t always the most appropriate place for people who need medical attention, and if this is the case we may direct you to an alternative – such as pharmacy, GP, or urgent treatment centre – to free up space for those who most need it.

Using the most appropriate service means you may be seen more quickly and this allows our hospitals to prioritise the sickest patients.

If it’s urgent medical help you need, please use NHS 111 online first. This is a 24/7 service that can direct you to the most appropriate care.

Your local pharmacy can also provide advice on minor health concerns from skin rashes, to earaches and flu. Many pharmacies open late and no appointment is needed.

You should contact your GP surgery for appointments about illnesses or injuries that won’t go away. Many GPs offer an out-of-hours service, and these appointments can often be booked via NHS 111 online. Your GP surgery will be able to advise.

Please take all the steps you can to keep yourself and others well this winter. Vaccines offer the best protection against flu and Covid – find out how to book here. Remember, also, to wash your hands regularly, to catch coughs and sneezes in tissues, to wrap up warm in the colder weather, and to check in on vulnerable friends, family, and neighbours.

Finally, do not visit patients in our hospitals if you have an illness – and when you do come to our hospitals, please wear a mask in clinical areas, as directed.

Thank you for supporting our hospitals and staff this winter.