People urged to stay away from hospitals and consider alternative sources of healthcare information

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On the cusp of New Year’s Eve, as local hospitals continue to face severe disruption due to norovirus and high attendances, Lincolnshire’s four Clinical Commissioning Groups are urging people to stay away from hospital wherever possible.

Working in conjunction with United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT), which manages Lincoln, Boston and Grantham hospitals, the CCGs are keen to get the message across to people that they should not visit hospital, even to see family and friends, unless is it absolutely necessary.

“In addition to the pressure A&E is under, our local hospitals are also dealing with high attendances and an outbreak of norovirus, the latter of which is particularly affecting Lincoln County Hospital,” explained Tracy Pilcher, Chief Nurse, Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group.

“ULHT needs all of us to help it manage the situation and the best way the public can help is by staying away from hospital and using other sources of information, such as NHS 111, local pharmacies, walk-in centres and minor injuries units, for healthcare advice.”

In an effort to contain the norovirus outbreak, ULHT has also restricted visiting at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston and Grantham and District Hospital for anyone tempted to visit.

Potentially serious for people who are already ill or those with long-term conditions, symptoms of norovirus include diarrhoea and vomiting. Good hand hygiene can help limit the spread of infection and whilst people usually recover without treatment in 24 – 72 hours, it is important to stay away from work, school, college or social gatherings until symptom free for at least 48 hours.

Most cases of diarrhoea clear up after a few days without treatment, however, it can lead to dehydration, so you should drink plenty of fluids (small, frequent sips of water) until it passes. It is very important that babies and small children do not become dehydrated. You should eat solid food as soon as you feel able to. If you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby and they have diarrhoea, you should try to feed them as normal.

In terms of alternative sources of healthcare and information, local pharmacies are able to provide a wealth of confidential and expert advice and treatment for a range of common illnesses and complaints. In addition, NHS 111 can support when medical help is needed fast but not in an emergency and is available 24/7 365 days of the year.

The walk-in centre in Lincoln on Monks Road is open 8am – 8pm seven days a week and offers a range of services, including nurse-led minor illness and sexual health services, including emergency contraception, and patients do not need to be registered.

There are also Minor Injury Units and Urgent Care Centres located at sites across the county.

Alternative sources of healthcare and information:

Pharmacy – able to provide confidential, expert advice and treatment for a range of common illnesses and complaints, without having to visit a GP or other healthcare provider

NHS 111 – available 24/7, NHS 111 makes it easier to access NHS services 365 days a year. Free to call, you should dial 111 when you need medical help fast but not in an emergency

GP Out of Hours – if you need a doctor out of hours, dial NHS 111 to contact the GP Out of Hours service

Walk-In Centres – the Walk-In centre at 63 Monks Road, Lincoln LN2 5HP, offers a range of services including nurse-led minor illness and sexual health services including emergency contraception. Patients do not need to be registered at the centre and can walk in. The centre is open from 8am – 8pm seven days a week.

Minor Injury Units – are located at:

John Coupland Hospital, Ropery Road, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire DN21 2TJ

Tel: 01427 816502

Open: 8am-8pm, seven days a week

Johnson Community Hospital, Spalding Road, Pinchbeck PE11 3DT (for satnav please use PE11 3PB) Tel: 01775 652000

Open: 8am-6pm, seven days a week

Sleaford Medical Group, 47 Boston Road, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, NG34 7HD

Tel: 01529 419100

Open 8.00am to 8.00pm, weekdays, 8.00am to 6.00pm at weekends and bank holidays

Urgent Care Centres:

Skegness Hospital, Dorothy Avenue, Skegness, Lincolnshire PE25 2BS

Tel: 01754 613504

Open: 24 hours, seven days a week (including Christmas Day and Bank Holidays)

County Hospital, High Holme Road, Louth, Lincolnshire LN11 0EU

Tel: 01507 600100 ext 1223

Open: 24 hours, seven days a week (including Christmas Day and Bank Holidays)

Some simple steps that can help stop norovirus spreading:

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food

If you’re in an NHS facility pay attention to hand hygiene notices, such as using hand gel when entering and exiting a ward

Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with Norovirus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner and follow the instructions on the product

Flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet. You should also keep the surrounding toilet area clean and hygienic

Wash any clothing or linens which could have become contaminated with Norovirus washing with hot, soapy water.