Video: A&E chief Dr. Brendan Lavery preparing for busy Christmas

People have been urged to only attend Altnagelvin A&E over the highly pressurised Christmas period if they absolutely need to be seen.

Dr. Brendan Lavery, Clinical Lead at the A&E , has asked the public to “choose well” from a range of health care alternatives this festive season to help ease pressure on staff.

Altnagelvin.

Altnagelvin.

“The big problem we are going to have is really going to be the week between Christmas and New Year, because a lot of the other alternatives are more difficult for patients to access.

“For example, you’ll have GP surgeries that are closed. It’s simply more difficult for people to access health care, so the reality is because we are open 24/7, we’re always here, we will always be the default,” he observed.

Dr. Lavery said a key priority was that members of the public manage to “stay well” over Christmas. Therefore if you feel you need to be seen at A&E don’t hesitate to use the department.

“If you are unwell or if you are sick that’s entirely appropriate,” he said.

Sometimes, however, the advice of a GP, a community nurse, or pharmacist, if they are available, can serve a patient equally well.

“You can see your local GP. You can see the practice nurse in the General Practice. There is pharmacy advice available. They have a minor ailments scheme.

"There are lots and lots of different ways that you can access health care, not just through the emergency department.

“This isn’t just to help us, it’s to help patients, because if you could be seen somewhere quicker and easier why would you want to come and sit in a waiting room here for a long period of time? It doesn’t work for anybody,” he said.

Fortuitously, as staff prepare for another busy Christmas the most recent Public Health Agency weekly bulletin shows influenza rates are below normal seasonal activity.

“We have had flu patients. We have had isolated small numbers but we haven’t had a large outbreak,” said Dr. Lavery.