Kent hospitals ask non-urgent patients to stay away
Hospital bosses in east Kent have urged people with non-urgent conditions to stay away from A&E departments after a sudden surge in attendance.
East Kent Hospitals University Trust said there has been a surge of patients at its emergency departments, putting pressure on resources.
The trust, which runs hospitals in Ashford, Margate and Canterbury, is advising people to seek help elsewhere.
It said most of the extra visitors are older people or have lung problems.
Julian Brazier, MP for Canterbury and Whitstable, plans to meet hospital officials on Friday to assess the seriousness of the situation.
He said: "I would support the appeal from the hospitals that those people who can go and see their GP instead or find another route, [should] do so."
The trust estimates that between 15% and 25% of people attending accident and emergency departments could be treated by another NHS service.
Jonathon Hawkins, the trust's divisional medical director for urgent care, said: "Our hospitals across east Kent are extremely busy dealing with many patients who are seriously ill, and we've seen a sustained rise in A&E attendances over the last week or two.
"So much so that it is now getting to a point where there's an imbalance between the demand at the front door and the ability to discharge patients back home.
"There's a multiplicity of reasons - winter pressures have come early, and our local picture mirrors that nationally."
He added: "Our A&E departments have very robust plans to deal with the most seriously ill patients and those with life-threatening illnesses, but many patients should be able to seek advice for those conditions that aren't life-threatening or serious, using other resources."
As Kent hospital bosses issued their plea to patients, Prime Minister David Cameron was again defending the coalition's record on NHS spending.
He told Prime Minister's Questions there were now 3,000 extra nurses and 8,000 additional doctors under his government.