People in Devon urged to save ED for emergencies – the local NHS is under severe pressure

People in Devon are being urged to only go to their local emergency department in immediately life-threatening cases.

The NHS in Devon is under severe pressure at present due to several factors, meaning GP surgeries, hospitals, community health services, mental health services and social care are all extremely busy.

High numbers of emergency attendances, combined with the need for some health and care staff, or their children, to self-isolate and the impact of Covid-19 admissions are affecting services.

NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s Lead Clinical Representative, Western Locality, Dr Shelagh McCormick said, “The pandemic is not over yet and we need local people to choose the right service for their needs. Where it is not urgent, you can help NHS staff, who are under extreme pressure at the moment, by waiting for the right service.

“You can also continue to support the NHS by continuing to follow the Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air advice.  Maintaining high standards of hygiene and continuing with social distancing also helps combat the spread of other infectious illnesses like noroviruses which are circulating in the community.”

Although the number of people in hospital with Covid is relatively low, hospitals are extremely busy. Reasons for this include:

  • Many staff are having to isolate and not come into work
  • Some staff are having to stay at home to look after children who have been sent home to isolate
  • As care homes are experiencing the same problems affecting their staff, it can make it harder for hospitals to discharge patients into nursing and care homes
  • Measures to keep people safe – infection prevention and control measures – mean we have reduced capacity in many areas. This means we can’t help as many people as we normally can so waits are longer and we can fit fewer people in our buildings
  • Sustained high numbers of emergency attendances – including record attendances and higher than average ambulance arrivals
  • Caring for Covid patients – although numbers are currently small, teams still have to manage with a reduced number of beds due to infection control measures
  • Some people are coming to ED when they shouldn’t be – other services are available to help them.

Here’s what you can do to help – choose the right service for your needs, and if it’s not urgent, please be patient and wait to be seen in the right place.

Before contacting your GP, you can look up your symptoms online using the NHS App, the NHS website or 111 online and there may be steps you can take to help yourself before needing to contact a healthcare professional.  Parents can download the Handiapp for information on childhood illnesses

You can also continue to support the NHS by seeking help when you need it from the most appropriate service. There are a range of options to get help in addition to your GP surgery:

Pharmacy: As lockdown eases, don’t forget your local pharmacist can provide health advice and help with minor illnesses like colds, rashes, sunburn, hay fever and diarrhoea. You don’t need an appointment and they can even provide you with the right medicines at the same time.

Mental Health: If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental wellbeing, our 24/7 mental health lines are available:


111 First:
Our NHS 111 service is available 24/7 to provide advice, treatment and care. Just ring 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk and the service will provide advice and refer you to another service if you need it. If you need to be seen in person, they can book you a time slot.

Minor injury units: Emergency Departments are for life-threatening emergencies. There is a network of minor injury units in Devon who can provide the treatment you need – often they’ll see you quicker, and closer to home.