Consider your options – there are several alternatives to A&E

Date: 08 March 2018


Like many other NHS Trusts, our Emergency Department is currently experiencing high numbers of attendances. This is often the case when the temperature rises after a particularly cold snap like the one we have just experienced. As many people were unable to get out to visit their GP or other healthcare providers last week, their conditions may have worsened and they may now feel the need to be treated more urgently.

Some patients attending the Emergency Department could be treated more appropriately elsewhere. We would urge you to consider other more appropriate and quicker options before visiting the Emergency Department:

Call 111

If you feel you need to see a doctor outside of normal hours (eg, evening, weekend or bank holiday), call 111. Trained call handlers will assess your symptoms and put you directly in touch with the people who can help; for example, an out-of-hours doctor, a district nurse or an emergency dentist - or it may be something as simple as a 24 hour pharmacy.

You should use the NHS 111 service if you:

  • Need medical help, but it's not a 999 emergency
  • Don't know who to call for medical help or you don't have a GP to call
  • Require health information or reassurance about what to do next

Calls to 111 are free from landlines and mobile phones and the service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Speak to a Pharmacist

Your local pharmacy is a good place to start if you have a minor ailment such as a headache, cough or sore throat. Pharmacists are medically trained and can give you expert advice on medicines and how they work, as well as help you decide whether you need to see a doctor. You don't need an appointment or even to make a purchase and you can talk to them in a private consultation area and in confidence. Common complaints which can be treated at home with advice from the pharmacist include: Skin conditions such as mild acne and mild eczema; coughs and colds including nasal congestion and sore throat; aches and pains, such as headaches, earaches and backaches and diarrhoea.

Health Help Now

The free Health Help Now website and app enables you to check your symptoms and search for local health services in Kent and Medway. As well as recommending options for treatment, it will provide opening hours of pharmacies and walk-in centres, and provides maps and directions. Visit or the app store on your device. Further healthcare advice is also available at

Choosing the right service helps to reduce the pressure on emergency services and ensures that they are available for those who really need them.

  • Summary:

    Like many other NHS Trusts, our Emergency Department (ED) is currently experiencing high numbers of attendances. Some patients attending ED could be treated more appropriately elsewhere; please consider other more appropriate and quicker options before visiting.