THE NHS in Devon is under extreme pressure and NHS doctors are asking local people to choose the right service for their needs so that people who need life-threatening and critical care can be treated as quickly as possible.

Prof Harris shares a message.

Yesterday the South Western Ambulance Service Trust declared a ‘Critical Incident’ as the service was under such pressure.

Today the NHS has said Devon’s acute hospitals and ambulance service are extremely busy, with people waiting a very long time in emergency departments to be seen and treated.

The local NHS, including South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, is appealing for people to choose the most appropriate service for their needs – to ensure people who need life-threatening and critical care can be treated as quickly as possible.

Speaking on behalf of Devon’s acute hospitals, Prof Mark Hamilton, Medical Director at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust said: ‘We are asking the public to please think carefully before attending our Emergency Departments so that we can be there for those who need us most.

‘If you’re ill or injured but it’s not life threatening and you’re unsure where to turn, please use or call 111 for advice.

‘They’ll tell you where to go to receive the quickest care possible, and the 111 phone service can book you into an NHS service if needed, helping to save you time.

‘Across Devon, a number of Urgent Treatment Centres and Minor Injury Units are open, as is the Walk-in Centre in Exeter, and GP surgeries are open on Thursday and Friday (29 and 30 December) as usual.

‘Local pharmacies are also open, including over the New Year weekend, and can offer advice and treatments for minor injuries and ailments.’

Carolyn Mills, chief nursing officer at the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘High numbers of patients across Devon have Covid, flu, other respiratory diseases and norovirus, and this adding to the significant pressures we face.

‘We have infection prevention and control measures in place to reduce the spread of these viruses, but we need the public to help us – please do not visit a loved one in hospital if you feel unwell, as you risk making them, our staff and other patients, very sick.

‘If you have a planned appointment and have symptoms of a virus, please call the number at the top of your letter to postpone your appointment. ‘

What local people can do to help:

Please only call 999 or visit the emergency department if you have need help for a life-threatening or critical condition. This includes chest pain, if you are having trouble breathing, a stroke, if someone is unconscious or has severe bleeding which won’t stop; having a fit that does not stop; a severe allergic reaction or have been involved in a serious incident like a road traffic accident.

Urgent treatment centres (UTC) and minor injury units (MIU) are open and nurses can treat burns, broken or fractured bones, sprains and strains, and anything that needs stitching. You’ll also be seen far quicker than waiting in an emergency department – visit hospital websites to see how long you will have to wait. Opening times:

Newton Abbot urgent treatment centre is open from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.

Totnes minor injury unit is open from 8am to 5pm, 7 days a week.

Cumberland Urgent Treatment Centre, Plymouth 8am-6pm

Tavistock Minor Injury Unit 9am-5pm

South Hams Kingsbridge Minor Injury Unit 8.30am-530pm

Tiverton Urgent Treatment Centre 8am-8pm

Honiton community hospital MIU is open every day, 8am-8pm

Ilfracombe MIU at Tyrell Hospital is open 10am-6pm on Friday 29 December and Monday 2 January.

Sidwell Street Walk in Centre in Exeter is open 8am–8pm on Friday 29 and Saturday 31 December, and Sunday 1 January.

Lyn Health medical and minor injury service is open on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 December, 8am-6pm (please call ahead)

If you’re ill and it’s not life threatening, please call your GP first – they know you best and they’re open today and tomorrow.

Please use if it can’t wait until you see your GP.

Pharmacists are highly trained clinicians and can give you advice and treatment for coughs, colds, upset tummies, sticky red eyes, rashes and other aches and pains.

Please don’t come to our hospitals if you have Covid, flu, or norovirus (also known as the winter vomiting bug).

These viruses can spread very quickly and can make the people we’re caring for – and our staff - very ill. If you do come to hospital, please wear a face mask, and wash your hands well and regularly.

Please help hospital teams by collecting loved ones from hospital when we call you, and help them when they’re home by getting some basic food in, collecting any medication they need, and checking if they need any help. This will help them from being readmitted.

pick up any prescribed medication before the bank holiday and stock up your medicine cabinet at home. You can treat most minor ailments at home with paracetamol, and ibuprofen, drinking plenty of water and resting. Pop some paracetamol (including liquid paracetamol for children) in your shopping trolley.