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Tackling winter pressures

Posted: 11 December 2017
Elizabeth George, Interim Head of Communications

How you can help the health service deal with winter pressures

Picture of A&E at Watford HospitalHealth services are particularly busy at the moment and we are asking everyone to think carefully before coming to the emergency department at Watford General Hospital.

Emergency departments come under heavy pressure every winter and this is especially true when there is severe bad weather as there has been for the last few days. Treacherous road conditions make it harder to discharge patients, yet admissions remain high.

A&E is for patients requiring emergency care for serious and life-threatening conditions. Please use the service carefully so it can best support those who need it most – for example, people with serious injuries, chest pain or significant blood loss. We can all help by not over-burdening the service and using it only when we need to.

Consider calling NHS 111, the non-emergency number to speak to a highly trained adviser. Callers will be asked a series of questions to assess their symptoms and immediately directed to the best medical care for them.

The service can also help patients access the GP out-of‐hours service to receive treatment overnight or arrange an urgent GP appointment. In the case of serious injury or illness, NHS 111 can despatch an ambulance to the patient or advise them on emergency options.

NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. For immediate life-threatening emergencies always dial 999.

You can also go to the Hemel Hempstead Urgent Treatment Centre which is open 8am-10pm every day or the Minor Injuries Unit at St Albans City Hospital which is open 9am-8pm every day.

You can buy a wide range of basic medicines to treat minor illnesses including coughs, colds and flu from your local pharmacy or shop. Pharmacists can also offer trusted advice on a range of issues whether it’s a cough or managing a long-term condition. They are highly trained and will tell you if something needs more urgent medical attention.


  1. For more information, please contact the communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: communications@whht.nhs.uk. Out of hours, please call 07900 228031.
  2. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust serves people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three hospitals; Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead. The trust sees around 600,000 patients a year and is one of the largest employers locally, with around 5,000 staff and volunteers.
  3. For more information about our hospitals, visit www.westhertshospitals.nhs.uk. You can also join our near 6,000 followers on Twitter (twitter.com/westhertsNHS) and find us on Facebook (facebook.com/westhertsNHS).