Only use A&E in emergency this Christmas, public told

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The public are being urged to think twice before they use A&E over the festive period to help hospitals cope.

NHS bosses in England are worried that the way Christmas and New Year falls this year could lead to a surge in demand after the long weekends.

They have been urging people to stock up on painkillers and cough syrups to deal with minor ailments.

Patients should also look to use alternatives to A&E such as the NHS 111 phone line and pharmacies if possible.

Long weekends tend to result in a peak in demand for emergency services on the first working day back.

It is not known exactly why this is although experts suggest as people are unable to access community services such as GPs they end up struggling through before seeking help on the first working day back.

Prof Keith Willet, of NHS England, said the health service was expecting to see a "surge in the days following Christmas and New Year".

"Younger fitter people can help our hard-working NHS doctors and nurses by only attending if it's absolutely necessary," he added.

He also urged people to keep an eye on elderly or frail friends, neighbours and relatives.

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Dr Cliff Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, echoed the sentiments.

"Seeking advice for management of common symptoms from a pharmacist or NHS 111 offers generally well adults an opportunity to save time and allow A&E departments to ensure they can concentrate on seriously ill patients and those whose health is generally poorer."

It comes as hospitals have been struggling to cope with demand towards the end of the year.

Figures from the start of December from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine suggest hospitals are missing their four-hour target.

The survey of over 40 trusts - one in five of those in the UK - found just over 86% of patients were being seen in four hours. The target is 95%.

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