TIME slots will be given to patients at the county's accident and emergency departments as part of a shake-up on how to access urgent care.

The new system for people in Worcestershire and Herefordshire asks for people to call NHS 111 first to ask where they should go and when if they need urgent but not emergency care.

If needed, direct referrals will be made to the right service which may be an appointment with an out of hours GP, or a timeslot at either a Minor Injury Unit (MIU) or accident and emergency (A&E) department.

NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG says contacting 111 first means everyone will receive the right care in the right place, without waiting in public waiting areas for longer than is necessary.

Bosses say the new system will ensure everyone stays as safe as possible during the pandemic as well as allow the flow of patients to be better managed in waiting rooms and departments made smaller by social distancing.

People with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries are still asked to call 999 as before and patients who contact their GP with urgent illnesses such as tonsillitis have also been asked to carry on as normal.

Mari Gay, managing director for NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire, said: “This is all about keeping people safe during a pandemic, and we want to avoid lots of people turning up at A&E or Minor Injury Units all at one time when we must safely maintain social distance arrangements.

“Nobody’s going to be locked out of our Emergency Departments or our Minor Injury Units but our advice is simple; If you need urgent NHS care please contact NHS 111 by phone or online to find out where you should go and when.

"They know exactly what’s best for your condition and where to go for the right treatment.”

Dr Tristan Brodie, Urgent Care GP Lead, said: “It’s important to stress that all GP practices across Herefordshire and Worcestershire remain open, though we are working in different ways in order to protect patients and staff from the ongoing risk of coronavirus.

"The help and support offered by surgeries remains unchanged, therefore, for health concerns that patients would have previously contacted their GP surgery we ask that they continue to do so."