'Avoid A&E over Christmas', fit and healthy people told
Top doctors have urged fit and healthy people not to go to A&E during the busy Christmas period unless "absolutely necessary".
Demand for the service traditionally peaks between Boxing Day and December 29, with festive drinking cited as a particular pressure.
Professor Keith Willett, National Clinical Director for Acute Care, said: "The NHS is open seven days a week, 365 days a year for those who need emergency help.
"But A&E experiences a surge in the days following Christmas and the New Year. Younger, fitter people can help our hardworking NHS doctors and nurses by only attending if it's absolutely necessary."
He suggested keeping winter remedies such as over the counter painkillers and simple cough syrups, and said: "Using a pharmacist as a first point of contact when you're unwell is often the best thing to do."
NHS England and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine as a whole have both called on people suffering from viral coughs, flu and minor ailments to recover at home. Health service guidelines advise that people keep an eye on elderly or frail neighbours, friends and relatives.
The NHS also says that their services are strained further at this time of year by alcohol misuse. A recent report by the Nuffield Trust, an independent body which monitors UK healthcare, said that emergency admissions to hospital specific to alcohol have increased by over 50% in six years, and the number of people attending A&E with probable alcohol poisoning has doubled in six years.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents warns that Christmas is a particularly risky time for public health, highlighting the risks posed by flammable decorations, trailing wires and cables for new gadgets, and toys that do not comply with safety standards.
Members of the public are warned by the organisation to turn off lights at night, keep pairs of scissors handy rather than use knives to open presents, and to be careful in the kitchen.
While issuing its call for fit and healthy people to avoid A&E, the NHS said that emergency admissions through A&E have increased dramatically over the last ten years, with a 44% rise between 2004/5 and 2014/15.
Over the same period, A&E visits increased by two million, according to NHS data. Last year, the British public made more A&E visits, more NHS 111 and ambulance calls than ever before.