People with coughs and colds clogging up A&E

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Doctors in Sheffield have asked patients to visit A&E only with urgent injuries or illnesses - after 1,295 people came into the Northern General Hospital casualty department over just four days.

On Monday and Tuesday this week - many people’s last days of holiday before heading back to work - doctors at the unit saw 337 visitors on each day.

On Sunday - New Year’s Day - 356 people attended the accident and emergency unit, many of them with minor complaints, and on New Year’s Eve 265 people attended.

The unit normally expects to see around 280 people come through its doors on a usual day.

The city’s health professionals say many of those queuing with coughs, colds, vomiting and diarrhoea could have received quicker treatment simply by visiting their GP or pharmacist.

Richard Parker, deputy operating officer of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which runs the Northern General, said: “Our first priority in A&E has to be patients who need emergency treatment, which means when we are very busy, patients will more minor illnesses wait much longer than normal.

“This has been the case over the past few weeks.

“We want to remind people about more appropriate places for their care and treatment if they are not in need of emergency treatment. We have excellent GPs and pharmacists across the city who can offer advice and treatments - and there is also the NHS Walk In Centre on Broad Lane.”

Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield’s Director of Public Health, added: “Emergency services are extremely busy at this time of year.

“Turning up at A&E with minor conditions or infectious illnesses such as flu, colds, diarrhoea and vomiting puts additional pressure on the NHS and means staff cannot look after the people with urgent medical conditions.

“But a trip to A&E is not always necessary.

“If people have very minor injuries they can visit their pharmacist who can offer expert, confidential advice, they can visit the walk-in centre, or make an appointment with their own doctor.

“Self-care is often the best choice when treating flu, hangovers or sore throats and can be treated with rest and over-the-counter medicines,” he said.