The South Belfast MLA stated: “Every year we hear concerns about how emergency departments are overburdened over the Christmas season and at certain other times of year. However, the issue goes beyond politely asking people not to attend A&E unless they have to. We need to consider improving resourcing of public awareness campaigns to ensure people are fully aware of their options.
“I would hope the Department of Health will consider urgently how it can improve public information around the use of out-of-hours services in each Trust, services available from community pharmacies, and how the public may make best use of GPs.
“Combined with a transformation of the service as envisaged by the panel chaired by Professor Rafael Bengoa, we should then see people accessing health services at a more appropriate location and stage.
“We need to focus messages not on what helps the service itself, but on what helps those using the service. If the public are better aware of their options, they will find the treatment and care they need much more efficiently.”