With the colder weather conditions and the seasonal increase in slips, trips and falls upon us, NHS services across Dorset are encouraging the public to make appropriate health care choices should they or a loved one sustain a minor injury.

Peter Swallow, Emergency Department consultant at Royal Bournemouth Hospital, said: “Patients experiencing a genuine life or limb-threatening injury or illness should typically arrive at A&E by ambulance. If you are well enough to self-present, it could be that your illness or injury could be dealt with more appropriately and often more quickly elsewhere.

“Every winter, we see lots of patients suffering with respiratory and other conditions brought on by the colder weather, so those with minor health issues can really assist us just by choosing the right care.

“By minor conditions and ailments, we mean simple coughs and colds, viral-like conditions if you have a temperature, rashes, sore throats, ear aches, simple injuries to toes, fingers and finger nails. Recently, we were aware of one patient who chose to wait in a busy Emergency Department for over 7 hours to have her acrylic nail looked at.

“The reality is, patients suffering from cardiac chest pain, strokes, respiratory problems where breathing has become so bad that they can’t manage, major trauma or accidents where limbs are at threat and any more complex conditions like sepsis will always be our priority.”

Both Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Dorset County Hospital are currently at OPEL level 4, the highest level, meaning hospitals are at maximum capacity, facing huge levels of demand for health care at this time.

Dorset has numerous Minor Injuries Units and Urgent Treatment Centres available. If patients do go to Emergency Departments in Dorset’s acute hospitals in Bournemouth, Poole or Dorchester, they may be advised to go elsewhere if they do not require life-saving care.

Crystal Dennis, Digital Health Lead at NHS Dorset CCG said: “We’re the first county in the south west to introduce the WaitLess app, and the first nationally to show true real time live feeds combining travel and waiting times. The app, based on a person’s location, displays how many people are waiting in each urgent and emergency care setting in Dorset, alongside the current wait time.”

“Over 1200 people are downloading and using the app from the App Store or Google Play every week in Dorset. Since introducing the app back in June, over 23000 uses have helped to make informed choices about where to get urgent treatment for non-emergencies. This has therefore released pressure in our stretched emergency care settings.”

If in doubt, call NHS 111 or go to 111.nhs.uk. Answer a few questions about your main symptom and you’ll be pointed in the right direction by a trained professional.