Stay away from A&E unless it's life-threatening, patients told
Health chiefs are warning patients to stay away from hospital emergency departments in Northern Ireland unless their condition is urgent or life-threatening.
A "high level of pressure" on medics over the Christmas and New Year period has meant people are having to wait longer than usual to get medical attention.
In a joint statement, the Health and Social Care Board and Public Health Agency said the public should consider other options before turning up at emergency departments.
"Emergency Departments across Northern Ireland are currently experiencing a high level of pressure," they said.
"The Health and Social Care Board and Public Health Agency are urging the public to consider other care options available to them such as their GP, nearest Minor Injury Unit or local pharmacy if their symptoms are not urgent or life threatening."
The health authorities said it is "regrettable" that some patients are having to wait longer to be treated or admitted to hospital because of the pressure on waiting lists.
"The public can assist by only attending an Emergency Department if their condition is urgent, so helping to ensure that the sickest patients get the care they need," the statement added.
"The Board and Agency are currently working closely with all Health and Social Care Trusts to optimise the flow of patients within hospitals and will continue to monitor the situation."