A CUMBRIAN NHS chief is urging the public to only visit accident and emergency departments or call 999 if they have a life threatening or critical condition.

Dr Mike Prentice, regional medical idrector for NHS England, warned that ‘all hospitals’ in the region and the ambulance service were currently extremely busy and needed to focus purely on emergencies.

People using these services for minor conditions added to this pressure and take up valuable time needed to treat critical cases, Dr Prentice said.

He encouraged the public to consider other options when ill and it is not an emergency, such as taking care of themselves at home, visiting a local pharmacist for advice if they’re unsure about their symptoms, or making an appointment with their GP.

“GP practices and pharmacies had alternative opening times in place over the festive season, but normal opening hours have now resumed,” he said.

“We’d like to remind everyone that A&E and 999 are for health emergencies only, including major accidents, broken bones, breathing problems, severe chest pains, unconsciousness, suspected stroke, and major blood loss.

“Many ailments, such as colds, sore throats, upset stomachs, and winter vomiting, should be treated at home with pain killers, rest and plenty of fluids, or with the advice of your local pharmacist.”

People can also visit their local NHS walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.

“Walk-in centres are open most days between 8am-8pm and can treat illnesses or injuries, such as sprains, insect/animal bites, minor cuts, bruises and burns,” said Dr Prentice.

Details of how to stay healthy and choose your medical services well over the winter period are available at www.choosewellcumbria.co.uk .

For more information about NHS services available near you visit NHS Choices.