A&E in Crisis- what can I do?

We are all aware of recent reports in the media about Emergency Departments (previously called A&E) being overstretched. One of the many reasons that this is happening is due to the inappropriate use of the Emergency Departments by patients accessing healthcare. This is a timely reminder of what to do when you are unwell so that we can allow Emergency Departments to treat those people who need them most.

Across the country, approximately 47 per cent of people attending an Emergency Departments could have received the same service via their GP, by telephoning NHS 111 or by calling in at an NHS walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent care centre.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid falling ill is to stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, getting some exercise, drinking sensibly and knowing your limits


Self-care is perfect if your condition is something you will be able to treat at home – in fact, home is the best place for you. A big part of your recovery from these minor ailments is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. You can plan ahead by stocking up on some healthcare essentials – paracetamol, indigestion remedies and plasters for example. You can find all these at your local pharmacy.

Use the NHS symptom checker to help you identify your condition.

If you have sickness and diarrhoea don’t go to your GP surgery or hospital, as you may spread this to others. Drink plenty of fluids and call your GP practice if you have concerns. The best way to prevent this spreading is hand washing with soap and warm water.

NHS 111

NHS 111 has been introduced across England and Wales to make it easier for you to access local NHS healthcare services. It is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year and is free to call from your landline or mobile phone.

You should call 111 if

  • You need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency.
  • You think you need to go to A&E or need another NHS urgent care service.
  • You don’t know who to call or you don’t have a GP to call.
  • You need health or medical information, or reassurance about what to do next.

For less urgent health needs, contact your GP or local pharmacist in the usual way.

GP surgeries

Your GP surgery should be your first port of call for non-urgent, on-going illnesses or injuries. Using a GP saves time as they know your medical history. Many GPs are open longer hours now – including early morning, late evenings and Saturdays and offer emergency appointments for urgent cases. You can also see a GP outside of usual opening hours. Just call your GP surgery as usual and a recorded message will tell you how to contact the out of hours GP service.


You can be treated by health professionals at your local pharmacy. Pharmacists can give advice on treating minor ailments like coughs and colds, give sexual health and contraception advice and provide treatments for minor ailments.

Walk-in Centres

NHS Walk-in Centres offer convenient access to health advice, information and first aid. You can walk in 7 days a week. Professional nurses run the centres which are available for all patients whether they are registered with a GP surgery or not.
The service is for the treatment of any minor illness or minor injury. This includes sexual health concerns, emergency contraception, wound management, travel health and smoking cessation. Procedures such as suturing and clip removals can also be performed.

Bristol City Walk-in Centre
Broadmead Medical Centre
59 Broadmead
Telephone: 0117 954 9828
Above Boots
More details about Broadmead Medical Centre

Minor Injuries Units

Your nearest minor injuries unit can help with a number of urgent minor injuries. You don’t need to make an appointment.

Southmead Minor Injuries Unit
Gate 35, Level 0
Brunel building
Southmead Hospital
Southmead Road
BS10 5NB

More details about Southmead Minor Injuries Unit

South Bristol Urgent Care Centre
South Bristol NHS Community Hospital
Hengrove Promenade, Hengrove, Whitchurch Lane Bristol BS14 0DE  
Sat nav postcode: BS14 0DB
Telephone: 0117 342 9692
Open 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
More details about South Bristol Urgent Care Centre

Emergency Departments

Emergency departments provide urgent treatment for serious, life-threatening conditions. You should travel to A&E yourself if you can but if someone is too ill, for example if they have collapsed or can’t breathe, dial 999 for an ambulance. The most seriously ill patients will be seen before those with less urgent conditions. This means some people have to wait for several hours for treatment, or they may be redirected to a GP, walk-in centre or a minor injuries unit.

Bristol Royal Infirmary A&E Department
Upper Maudlin Street, Bristol BS2 8HW
More information about Bristol Royal Infirmary Emergency Department


Bristol Eye Hospital Emergency Department
Lower Maudlin Street, Bristol BS1 2LX Telephone: 0117 342 4613
Open 8.30am – 5pm seven days a week Call before you visit. They may be able to offer you advice over the telephone.

More information about Bristol Eye Hospital Emergency Department