MORE than 20,000 people went to the Countess of Chester Hospital’s accident and emergency department in just three months.
Health bosses are now urging people to think twice before heading to hospital as the winter months have tested the department to the limit.
Despite warnings to stay away unless it was a genuine emergency, the three months of winter saw more than 1,000 extra people visit A&E at the Countess.
20,098 people passed through the department’s doors between November and January.
Mike Cheshire, medical director for NHS North West, said: “Our emergency teams have had to manage major pressures this winter.
“This shows people still need to think twice before going to A&E.
“A&E departments are not a one-stop-shop for the treatment of all ailments.
“The people working there are trained to deal with life-threatening and serious conditions, so taking up their time when you have back ache or a sniffle is wasting their time – time that could be spent saving someone’s life.”
NHS teams across the North of England have been tested to the limit as they have had to deal with nearly 808,000 people – up 17,000 on the same time last year.
Research shows 12 per cent of people who go to A&E know they don’t really need to be there, meaning emergency teams dealt with an estimated 96,960 who didn’t need to be there.
Over the past couple of years the ‘Choose Well’ campaign has been trying to educate people about the different NHS services.
The campaign promotes self-care and the use of high street pharmacies for common complaints including coughs and colds, flu, stomach upsets and general aches and pains.
Mr Cheshire said: “It only takes five minutes to check where your nearest pharmacy is and when it opens, or where your nearest urgent care centre, walk-in centre or minor injuries unit is.
“NHS Choices also has some excellent advice on how to treat common illnesses and complaints and has a local service finder.
“I’d like to appeal to everyone to make sure you save the web address somewhere handy and put the phone numbers for NHS Direct or NHS 111 if they have this service locally into their contacts.”