Oxfordshire residents are being urged to call 111 before going to an Emergency Department in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid.

People will be assessed and, if needed, booked into either A&E at Oxford's John Radcliffe or Horton General Hospital in Banbury for treatment.

However, if it would be more appropriate, they will be advised on how to get care elsewhere, such as from a minor injuries unit or their GP.

Lily O’Connor, deputy director for urgent care at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs both A&Es, said: “NHS 111 First is a very important part of our planning as we continue to tackle winter pressures and plan for any future surges of Covid-19."

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She said it is designed to improve outcomes and experiences for patients as well as help maintain social distancing in Emergency Departments, adding: “People will still be able to contact 999 and attend an Emergency Department if they are experiencing a medical emergency."

Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, urgent care lead at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The benefit of contacting NHS 111 First is that you will be assigned to the service that is most appropriate for your needs so you should end up in the right place, first time.

"You may be seen more quickly and by the healthcare professional who is best placed to treat you, a loved one, or the person you are caring for.

"By advising people where and when to go, we can reduce queues and avoid crowding in Emergency Departments and therefore reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission as well as the transmission of seasonal illnesses like flu and colds.”