Bid to ease pressure on Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

Sarah BrealeySpecially-tailored advertising and healthcare messages to reach specific groups of people is one method being tried to stop people going to hospital unnecessarily.Sarah Brealey

Specially-tailored advertising and healthcare messages to reach specific groups of people is one method being tried to stop people going to hospital unnecessarily.

A study is also being carried out of people who go to A&E and are then admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, to try to find out how some of the hospital trips can be avoided.

The work is being done to reduce the huge rise in demand for emergency healthcare - there has been a 16pc rise in admissions to beds and 11pc rise in A&E admissions at the N&N in the past year.

But councillors at Norfolk's health scrutiny committee yesterday said that the NHS needed to get better at meeting people's needs and suggested there was an issue with out-of-hours doctors.

David Stonehouse, deputy chief executive of NHS Norfolk, said: "If the increase this year were to continue, it is not sustainable."

Jim Barker, programme manager for unplanned care at NHS Norfolk, said that one of the factors was "perceived difficulty in getting appointments with GPs".

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He said they had done market research to find out which groups needed targeted information about which health services to use. "In A&E you see a lot of young men turning up and leaflets don't have the same impact, but text messaging might work better."

But former GP and Mulbarton councillor Nigel Legg said: "Despite all the billions spent on the NHS, people's lives are still expected to be subservient to the needs of the NHS.

"You talk about a perceived inability to get GP appointments. It is not perceived - it is real. People complain about it to me all the time. The out-of-hours service - if it wasn't so serious, I'd think it was a joke. People are not getting treatment.

"People are paying vast sums of money for a health service and expect something from it. Are you going to work with other providers to ensure people actually get what they are paying for?"

Hingham councillor Steven Dorrington said: "My experience is that there is a problem with out of hours. In a rural area with long distances, I would like to see mobile A&Es, say with a couple of nurses in Dereham, so if someone is in a punch-up or is bleeding, they can patch them up and pack them off."

Patrick Thompson, chairman of Norfolk Link patients' group, said: "I would like it to be user-friendly. When you are in an emergency, regardless of the seriousness, it is an emergency for you. The patients must be thought of and how the services can fit their needs."

The issue will be looked at again in March, when representatives of all three major hospitals in Norfolk will be asked to attend.

� Have you had a problem with the out-of-hours health service? Contact us on 01603 772485 or