WIRRAL residents in need of health care are being urged to consider alternatives to hospital visits if not an emergency during the pandemic.

Advice from the borough's health bosses and council leader includes using emergency phone line NHS 111, visiting a pharmacy or contacting your GP.

You can also get advice for medical conditions and symptoms online at nhs.uk.

Janelle Holmes, chief executive at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said: "We are experiencing a very busy time in our hospitals dealing with increased COVID-19 admissions plus usual winter pressures and rolling out the vaccination programme.

"We urge the people of Wirral to help us to help you by only coming to A&E for an emergency and using the wealth of other support - for physical and mental health - on offer."

Hazel Richards, chief nurse at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, added: "We are dealing with unprecedented challenges in the NHS and on the Wirral.

"We need the support of the local community to only come to the hospitals in a genuine emergency and for them to consider accessing other forms of healthcare advice like NHS 111, pharmacists in the community, GPs and community nursing teams.

"It's also really important that patients follow all the rules such as wearing masks and keeping social distancing for their safety when in hospital or attending an appointment.

"We are working with our partners in Wirral healthcare and Local Authority to provide the best service for patients in the most appropriate way possible."

Paula Simpson, Chief Nurse at Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust said: "With enormous demand on the health system, we want to make sure people can safely access the services they need, and where possible remain at home.

"People can access high quality specialist support at home either online, over the phone or video call and where necessary face to face.

"The Trust’s Telehealth and COVID Pulse Oximetry at Home service is a great example of how we are providing specialist care in new ways, offering people the best treatment options available.

"Unless you are seriously ill, staying at home is the safest place to be and we can provide the support you require.”

The leader of Wirral Council, Cllr Janette Williamson, said: "As in many areas of the UK, Wirral’s Coronavirus cases continue to rise, causing immense pressure on our borough's health and emergency services.

"This is why I and my NHS partners am urging residents in non-emergency situations to contact NHS 111 first, rather than going straight to A&E.

"In a non-emergency situation, calling 111 will allow dedicated health specialists to triage you and your loved ones by phone or online, before directing you to the right place for your care – at the right time.

"It simplifies the process for both our NHS and key workers and for the individuals requiring assistance - and it could save you a long and unnecessary wait in A&E.

"While our health and care workers face seasonal Winter pressures, complicated by the pandemic, this is a simple thing that the public can do to support our NHS and help them not to become overwhelmed."

Dr Paula Cowan, GP and Chair NHS Wirral CCG, added: "At these times of such immense pressure, we need to work together across our health and care providers to support each other and ensure the sustainability of the systems we have in place.

"We all have an individual role to play as Wirral residents in complying by the guidance, to ensure that we limit the spread of the virus as much as possible.

"I would encourage those who feel they need health care- with the exception of an emergency, to consider all options such as self-care, pharmacy and NHS 111 before accessing any other services."

For emergencies, always call 999.

For urgent mental health needs, call Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's urgent mental health helpline on 0800 145 6485.

For up-to-date information on community organisations and support available in Wirral, people can also visit Wirral InfoBank at www.wirralinfobank.co.uk