PREVENTABLE visits to A&E are placing the NHS under great strain.

For several years hospitals have been running flat out just to keep pace with demand. Thanks to remarkable progress in treatments, people with long-term illnesses are living longer. Increasing demand is stretching hospitals to the limit and in Bradford this is being exacerbated by people turning up at A&E for treatment they should be getting elsewhere.

Dr Brian Gill, medical director of Bradford Teaching Hospitals, says some patients have developed an unhealthy habit of using A&E.

Medics are being asked to treat people with a range of minor ailments, such as coughs and colds, when they should be dealing with genuine emergencies. In January, when NHS A&E departments nationally were in crisis, one-in-three patients attending the Bradford Royal Infirmary’s A&E department were classed as non-urgent.

Of course, not every non-urgent case is a member of the so-called “worried well”.

Many people turning up at A&E have long-term conditions such as dementia, diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

These are illnesses that could – and should – be managed by GPs and out-patient services.

The NHS is good at providing care to people who are sick but it needs to get better at preventing patients becoming ill in the first place.

Meanwhile, we can all play our part in helping. The next time you think about going to A&E ask yourself if it is a genuine emergency. If not your indifference could be putting someone’s life at risk.