A senior A&E doctor from Chesterfield Royal has urged patients to think carefully about how they use the health service this winter.
The appeal comes as the hospital’s A&E department publishes ‘real-time’ information on how busy they are to the public for the first time.
It is hoped that the information - which is displayed in the department’s reception area and on the trust’s website - will encourage patients to think about the other options that might be available to them.
Dr Bill Bailey, lead A&E consultant at Chesterfield Royal, said: “The real time data is there to inform patients of how busy we are at any given point.
“Depending on what is wrong with them, they can then choose to use another part of the system where they might be seen quicker or by a more appropriate person.”
The information shows patients how many are currently waiting at A&E and what is the maximum time they will have to wait for consultation and discharge.
It is hoped that in providing the information, the hospital will ease pressure on a service that is currently under tremendous strain.
Dr Bailey said that traditional winter pressures had now turned into year-round pressures and that Chesterfield - like A&E units across the country - was struggling to cope with the amount of patients it was currently seeing.
“When I started here in 1997, the unit saw around 50,000 patients per year but last year saw 80,000,” he said.
“As the name suggests, A&E is there for accidents and emergencies - that is what we are trained to deal with.
“If you come here you are not going to see someone who is an expert in primary care like a GP.
“We will be here 24/7 over the Christmas period but if lots of people present with things that could be dealt with elsewhere that actually delays the treatment of people who need to be here.”
Dr Bailey said that many illnesses and injuries can be treated by other parts of the system, including local pharmacies and the NHS’s 111 service.
He also advised people to think about visiting the ‘excellent’ minor injuries units in Matlock and Ripley and their own GPs.