A&E staff at the Royal Stoke are gearing up for their busiest few days of the year.
The department regularly sees more than 400 patients a day, and a high number of attendances is expected to continue during the weekend and into the beginning of next week.
Outbreaks of flu and winter vomiting bug (Norovirus) have also not helped ease pressures.
Dr John Oxtoby, UHNM Medical Director, said: “We have seen a rise in the number of people attending A&E with coughs and colds, as well as the winter vomiting bug. These conditions can be self-managed or treated with over the counter remedies. Patients with these symptoms should not be coming to A&E as they would be better treated elsewhere.
“A&E departments are to treat accident and emergencies, not anything else. Conditions include chest pain, loss of consciousness, severe bleeding, broken bones, choking, difficulty breathing, a suspected stroke.
"We do not want to deter patients who are suffering from these conditions as clearly they need to come here.
"We simply want to spread the message that there are alternatives to A&E.
“Winter is traditionally a busy time for hospitals across the country, and this year is no different, so it’s important that the public take on board our messages and only come to A&E if it’s necessary."
People are being asked to consider using other NHS services for minor ailments that could be self-managed or treated better elsewhere - and maybe more appropriate for their needs, including:
- Pharmacy: They can advise on bugs, viruses, coughs and colds.
- Self-care: Winter always brings more colds and sore throats. If you start to have symptoms of flu or a heavy cold, stay at home, keep warm and take plenty of non-alcoholic drinks. If your doctor recommends you have the flu vaccination, make an appointment.
- Seeing their doctor: For medical advice or for illnesses you can’t shake off. You should be able to get an appointment with your surgery within 24 hours, Monday to Friday. If your doctors are closed call your doctor’s surgery and you will be transferred to the GP out of Hours Service.
- Haywood Walk-in Centre: If you have a minor illness or injury such as a sprain that doesn’t require an A&E visit your nearest Walk-in Centre.
- Leek Minor Injuries Unit – at Leek Moorlands Hospital, Ashbourne Road, ST13 5BQ, open 8am-8pm, every day including bank holidays
- NHS 111: NHS 111 is a fast and easy way to get the right help, whatever the time. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free.
- A and E or 999: For anything classed as an emergency including choking, chest pain, loss of consciousness, severe blood loss, broken bones, , difficulty breathing, deep wounds or a suspected stroke.
Dr Steve Fawcett, a GP and Medical Director of Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire CCGs said: “I would really ask people suffering with minor conditions to think whether they want to wait for a long time in a very busy Emergency Department.
"Everyone who attends will be assessed and treated depending on their clinical need and not in the order they arrived. Staff at the ED have to prioritise people with genuinely life-threatening conditions meaning no guarantee can be given about how long non-emergency patients will be there.
"I would urge people with less serious conditions to call 111 or go visit 111.nhs.uk to receive prompt advice.”
A spokesperson for Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Haywood Walk in Centre and Minor Injuries Unit located at Leek Moorlands Hospital are nurse-led services that are equipped to assess and treat a wide range of minor illnesses and minor injuries.
"They offer convenient access and no appointment is required. Anyone experiencing a minor injury or ailment is encouraged to utilise these services.”