Up to 6.5 million people a year are wrongly going to A&E when they could be treated by GPs, paramedics or even chemists, the doctor leading the emergency services reform has warned.
Professor Keith Willett told Sky News that a third of patients seeking urgent care at hospitals could be diverted to other services under his new plans to relieve the pressure on A&Es in England.
Prof Willett and the medical director for NHS England, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, will publish their reforms later this autumn with the intention of implementing them in 2015.
The measures are expected to include encouraging patients to ring 111 helpline first, for paramedics to treat more people at the roadside and in their homes, and for a consultant to be available at A&E units seven days a week.
Prof Willett, the national director for Acute Episodes of Care, told Sky News: "We know that 15% to 30% of people who turn up to be treated at A&E could have been treated in general practice.
"They did not know that because the system did not obviously make itself available to them.
"We would look to the public to understand the issues and when the situation does get difficult, to take the advice that I've suggested about phoning first, to get the right advice, to go to the right place, to think of using your general practitioner or indeed your pharmacist, (who) give a lot of advice for minor ailments."
He added that many patients turn to A&E with routine medical problems because they are frustrated by out-of-hours services or because they cannot get quick enough appointments with their GP.