A&E doctors in Bradford and Airedale are urging patients across the district to stop and think before they seek emergency care this winter.

Staff in Airedale’s A&E department can see more than 200 people a day and at Bradford Royal Infirmary in excess of 400 patients are seen on a busy day – many who do not need hospital care.

Now with winter dramatically increasing pressure on hospital services, doctors are urging patients with minor illnesses and injuries to seek help from their GP, local pharmacist, or even treat themselves with first aid and basic self-care.

Dr Alexandra Danecki, consultant in emergency medicine for Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s in the name – A&E is for accident and emergency cases only, such as severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, significant head injuries and broken bones.

“Some people who come to our A&E should have gone for treatment elsewhere. Some of these could have gone to see their GP but they thought their problem was too urgent to wait or their local surgery was closed.

“We are not a shortcut to specialist referrals – if a case is not an emergency it will be referred back to the GP. Patients perhaps don’t realise that their GP may have more experience than the doctor who sees them in A&E in areas such as skin rashes. Our expertise is management of emergency conditions; not on-going care of chronic problems.”

The NHS Choose Well campaign spells out the options for getting routine, urgent and out-of-hours healthcare and the effect that inappropriate use of NHS services can have on those people who really need emergency care.

Dr Georgina Haslam, urgent care lead at NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds, said: “It’s always important for patients to choose the most appropriate treatment for their illness so that emergency healthcare is only used by those people who need it.

“West Yorkshire Urgent Care Services can advise people with unexpected or worsening health conditions and there are a range of other services, including pharmacies and GP practices, which can also help. A&E departments aren’t for anything and everything – they are very busy and should only be used in serious or life-threatening situations. Choosing well not only helps to ease the pressure on hospital A&E departments but it means patients can get faster access to the services they really need.”

Jonathan Taylor, pharmacist at Carleton-In-Craven Pharmacy, near Skipton, added: “Your pharmacy is not just a place to simply pick up medicines, we are happy to give you advice on how to use them properly and possible side-effects. You can also talk to us, without an appointment, about common health problems and we will tell you if we think you need to see a doctor.”

A dvd called Right Time, Right Place produced by NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds is online at airedale-trust.nhs.uk showing what each NHS service does and when it should be used. For more information about winter health and Choose well visit: bradford.nhs.uk/your-health/choose-well