Staff at St George’s are urging south west Londoners to take extra care and only attend the emergency department in genuine emergencies over the coming Easter weekend.

St George’s is very busy and is experiencing a high demand on services, with many people attending the emergency department who could have been seen more quickly in other healthcare environments.

Dr Jane Evans, Divisional Chair and Consultant in Acute and Respiratory Medicine at St George’s, said: “As school holidays set in and Covid-19 becomes more prominent in the community again, we are starting to see more patients attending hospital so it’s even more important to only come to hospital if you really need to particularly over the bank holiday weekend when we know hospitals across the country are busier than usual.”

She added: “Our staff are always on hand when you need us, but unless it’s an emergency, please call NHS 111 first for advice on which part of the NHS can best support you with your care. Nobody wants to be waiting for hours in an emergency department. We see a lot of patients, particularly children, who could be seen much quicker through other NHS services.”

The Blue Sky Unit at St George’s offers specialist paediatric care to children who have been referred from other healthcare settings including their GP.

Dr Luci Etheridge, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Consultant Paediatrician at St George’s, said: “The Blue Sky Unit helps the hospital run more efficiently, which in turn helps our paediatric patients have a better experience. They get a referral appointment from their GP, meaning they avoid long waiting times in our emergency department, which has been particularly beneficial for our vulnerable paediatric patients during Covid-19 who have needed to limit their contacts.”

She added: “Some unwell children will need to be seen in a hospital setting and it’s important that in an emergency you do attend hospital, however there are many other ways to get advice and support for your unwell child, including calling NHS 111 for advice or speaking to a pharmacist for minor injuries and conditions.”

In recent weeks, St George’s has also seen an increase in people attending the emergency department after running out of medication as well as people attending with mental health issues.

Dr Jane Evans said: “If you take regular medication and are due your next prescription, please request and collect it in advance of the bank holiday. This not only means you have peace of mind, but it will help ensure that out-of-hours pharmacy or GP services can be used for those requiring urgent care more quickly.”

Dr Vasa Gnanapragasam, lead GP for Merton, said: “We have extra GP services and more appointments on evenings and weekends – if you have a health concern over the bank holiday weekend, contact your GP practice or use their website to find out what your local arrangements are, or use the NHS 111 online service for health advice.”

Jacqueline Totterdell, Group Chief Executive of St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group, said: “Our teams have worked incredibly hard over the last two years and they continue to do so to care for our local communities. We are always open when you need us, but please support our staff by having all your Covid-19 vaccinations, calling NHS 111 first before attending our emergency departments or asking for advice from your local pharmacy if it isn’t an emergency. Doing these small, but effective, actions makes you an NHS hero and we thank everyone who is supporting the NHS in this way especially at busier times.”

If you need urgent health care

  • If it is a life-threatening emergency, then call 999
  • If you are told to go to hospital, then you must go. The NHS will help you get the care you need.

If you need urgent mental health care 

If you need advice from a pharmacist

  • For minor medical problems, not related to coronavirus, many local pharmacies will be open and are able to help this weekend – although their opening times may be different
  • A number of pharmacies in London will be open for longer hours – search for a pharmacy at

If you think you need advice from a GP

  • GP services are available this Bank Holiday weekend
  • Contact your practice online or by phone to be assessed
  • If your practice is not open but an appointment is necessary, you will be advised of the next steps. Your appointment may be at another nearby service.

If you think you need urgent dental treatment

  • Call your dentist
  • If you cannot contact your dentist, or you do not have one, use the NHS 111 online service or call if you cannot get online
  • If an appointment is necessary, this will be arranged at an urgent dental care centre.

If you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms

  • Stay at home and visit for health advice
  • Do not go to your GP practice, pharmacy or A&E
  • If your symptoms worsen, or you feel that you cannot manage at home, please visit the NHS111 online coronavirus service. Call 111 if you cannot get online or you’ve been told to do so.

Coronavirus vaccine

  • Vaccine clinics remain open across south west London, details available here –
  • Vaccines are available for
  • 1st and 2nd doses for people aged 5 years old and over
  • boosters for people aged 16 years old and over, plus at-risk children aged 12 to 15 years old
  • spring boosters for people aged 75 years old and over, plus people aged 12 years old and over with a weakened immune system
  • additional primary doses for people with a severely weakened immune system aged 12 years old and over

Notes to editors

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