HEALTH leaders in South Gloucestershire are urging patients to consult their pharmacist first for help with minor summer ailments, following a surge in non-emergency A&E visits.

Southmead Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) has seen record numbers of people with non-emergency minor health problems such as sunburn and insect bites since the start of the hot weather.

Dr Leilah Dare, ED consultant at Southmead Hospital said: “Since the heatwave we have seen a significant impact on our ED. We have had an unprecedented amount of patients come through our doors, with attendances higher than we experienced in December and January.

“Patients who attend our ED with minor illnesses or injuries will face a long wait as we prioritise those with more serious conditions.”

GP and medical director for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Martin Jones, said: “We’re coping well with the pressures across our health system and patients are continuing to receive safe and effective emergency care.

“However, people can help their local hospital by using the right service for their needs and choosing the pharmacy first for very minor ailments such as insect bites and sunburn.

“Using the right service helps to make sure that hospitals can focus on the patients who need them most and it’s usually easier and more convenient for patients to pop into their local pharmacist.

“Many pharmacists are open later in the day and there are always some available over the weekend too.”

Thara Raj, public health consultant with Public Health England South West, said: “Many common ailments we see increasing during the summer months, such as insect bites and sun burn, can be easily avoided by following simple advice available on the NHS Choices website.

“We know that many people will drink alcohol when the weather’s like this, and that a lot of people across the area are likely to be out enjoying themselves during the World Cup matches.

“But it’s really important to remember that all alcohol has a dehydrating effect so if you are drinking alcohol, consider that other fluids will you keep better hydrated.”

Advice on treating insect bites and sunburn is available on the NHS Choices website. If you believe you need medical advice but it’s not a 999 emergency, dial NHS 111 at any time.