Health bosses in the North East have issued a stark warning to members of the public who are misusing emergency NHS services.
Between December 1 and Christmas Day, more than 53,000 people attended major A&E departments in hospitals across the region.
However, less than 30 per cent were deemed to be in need of emergency treatment and officials are urging people not to attend unless they have a serious or life-threatening illness or injury.
The ailments that people in the North East have gone to A&E with over the festive period include backache, broken finger nails, toothache, coughs, colds, sore throats, sickness and diarrhoea.
David Evans chairs one of the region’s A&E delivery boards and is chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
On behalf of all NHS providers in the North East, he said: “Our message is very simple – if it is not a serious or life-threatening emergency then please do not waste the time of busy hospital teams or 999 services who are there to look after patients who are very sick and who do need immediate medical help.
“For too long, A&E has become the default option for too many people and this simply has to change for the future of the NHS.
“Our emergency system is without doubt the best in the world but we need to keep it that way and keep 999 and emergency care free to do what the NHS does best. This starts with people taking more accountability.
“We are appealing to the public conscience as we want everyone to really think about how they use NHS services.”
Emergency 999 calls have also risen by a third over the last few weeks, putting enormous pressure on the North East Ambulance Service.
The region’s NHS is reminding the public that your GP should always be the first port of call for most medical problems.
If in doubt, the free NHS 111 number is available 24/7 for expert medical advice.