HEALTH bosses on the Isle of Wight have urged people not to go to St Mary's Hospital A&E department this winter unless it is an emergency.
Emergency department consultant Robin Beal said they faced extra pressure during the winter and urged people with minor medical problems to seek help from other health services.
Mr Beal said: "It is really important at this time of year as the severity of medical patients with emergencies increases, for individuals with more minor medical problems to consider the appropriateness of attending the Emergency Department.
"The Department is certainly for the care of those with acute problems that cannot wait to be seen, however, it is the wrong place for someone to attend with a chronic problem that has not changed.
"Chronic problems cannot be treated in the Department and patients will be redirected to their GP, often after a long wait.
"Similarly there are many conditions that can be self-managed, such as small cuts, with plasters or simple pain relief. There are also other places to seek advice, such as pharmacies and of course your own GP."
A spokesman said: "Emergency departments and 999 services are for serious and life-threatening conditions only, such as heart attacks, strokes, broken bones or breathing difficulties.
"If you are unsure whether your condition is urgent, contact NHS 111 before visiting St. Mary’s Hospital."
Along with other health trusts around the country, the Isle of Wight has made the appeal as part of the Choose Well campaign, which is encouraging people to find appropriate health services.
Mr Beal added: "The Emergency Department should not necessarily be the first port of call and is not to be seen as a way of seeing a doctor quicker than going to your doctor's surgery or as a way to expedite investigations organised by a GP.
"After all, those with life threatening or severe illness or injury may have to wait longer than necessary, to their detriment."
Lisa Burtenshaw, Beacon Centre Manager, said: "A patient's own GP is best placed to make a diagnosis, provide a treatment plan with continuity and refer onto specialist services if required, based on the patient's clinical history.
"The Walk-In Centre is unable to provide follow-up appointments, non-urgent repeat prescriptions for Island residents or referrals to specialities which people don’t always realise when they attend for non-urgent matters."
The Choose Well campaign asks the public to think about how serious their health problem is and then choose the right service:
For very minor problems such as a hangover, indigestion, or a grazed knee, people should self-care
For minor infections, coughs and colds, advice can be given by local pharmacies
For ailments such as stomach pain and vomiting, a persistent cough or ear pain call your GP surgery. Details can be found at www.nhs.uk
A mobile phone friendly web-link is also available at http://bit.ly/nhsnwQR