A Sheffield councilor described her shock after attending a walk-in clinic in the city center and finding out there was a six-hour waiting time.
Crookes and Crosspool councilor Ruth Milsom, and chair of the health scrutiny committee, went to Broad Lane Medical Center for help on Tuesday (December 5) after losing her voice and suffering a worsening sore throat.
But she didn’t know where to turn after arriving at the outpatient center to find a crowded reception area and a laminated note saying the wait to see a doctor was six hours. NHS South Yorkshire has since told The Star that December 5 was “one of the busiest days” for the clinic.
“The waiting room was packed,” said the councilor. “There was nowhere left to sit. I saw many adults there with small children. With concern about Strep A casesthis is a bad situation.
“What really bothered and worried me was seeing so many, especially young children and their carers, waiting in what was quite a cramped area. I can’t imagine waiting like this for up to 6 hours.
“I couldn’t find prescribing pharmacists in Sheffield on the internet. The receptionist said they don’t have a ‘digital ticket’ system so people can leave and come back.
“The big problem here is the lack of capacity for non-urgent appointments. And it’s very true that I shouldn’t wait for an urgent appointment for a strep throat that isn’t making me terribly sick.” [but] I knew that if I went to see my GP I would probably be waiting days for an appointment, if not weeks.”
It comes as the latest NHS data released today (12 November) has revealed that waiting lists have reached a record high. In November, A&E departments across the country experienced their worst performance against the four-hour target on record. In emergency departments, one in three people must wait more than four hours to be served, which is considered the worst performance on record. And, at the end of October, 7.2 million people were waiting to start routine treatments.
The NHS has run several public campaigns asking patients to make sure they choose the right point of care, such as calling their GP, calling 111 and going to the pharmacist, rather than going to the emergency room.
Broad Lane Medical Center reports that it can help with bad coughs, severe sore throats, rashes, suspected infections, and sudden worsening or long-term conditions.
Dr Zak McMurray, Sheffield GP and Medical Director at NHS South Yorkshire, said: “The NHS is busier than ever and all services are under pressure, but the NHS is still open and available to you. There are many health services available in Sheffield, you may not always need to go to A&E or see a GP. There may be other services that can treat you more quickly and appropriately.”
The NHS 111 service is recommended as the first point of call if someone is unsure where to go for medical help, except in a life-threatening emergency when you should always call 999.
Meanwhile, Councilor Milsom says she aims to use her channels as chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee to raise her concerns, building on asking the Integrated Care Board in November about the state of primary care in South Yorkshire.
She said: “It is important that the finger of blame is not directed at frontline medical staff or practice staff. They are all doing an amazing job under the most adverse circumstances.
“As a commissioned and accountable body in South Yorkshire, the onus is on them to ensure that all residents have adequate access to healthcare.
“If they can’t meet their responsibilities, they should challenge the Secretary of State to provide the necessary resources.
“If they know that primary care is in chronic trouble, they should not delay in making those demands of the Secretary of State.”
Which NHS service do I turn to when I need help in Sheffield?
If you are not sure which service to use, use or call 111, who can advise you accordingly.
Pharmacists can help with a wide range of minor illnesses and ailments without making an appointment. The NHS reports that most pharmacies have a quiet area where you can talk in private, and many are open during nights and weekends. They can also help you decide if you need to see a doctor.
If you need to see a GP when their practice is closed, you can access the after-hours health service. You can book appointments for these services through your usual GP or by contacting NHS 111 when your GP is closed.
Walk-in services treat minor illnesses and injuries that do not require a visit to A&E. The Broad Lane center is open from 8am to 10pm daily, including Christmas Day, serving people of all ages on a walk-in basis.
Royal Hallamshire Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit is open daily from 8:00am to 8:00pm, except Christmas Day, treating adults with less serious injuries. Many people come to the A&E department of our Sheffield hospitals with minor injuries when they could normally be treated much faster in the Minor Injuries Unit.
It is also highly recommended to stay up to date with your flu and Covid-19 vaccinations as this year is the eflu season expected it will be worse than usual.