Patients are being reminded to use the necessary NHS services if they fall ill this winter and keep 999 lines open for emergencies.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is urging people to act responsibly and to keep The Northumbria hospital at Cramlington for those with serious or life-threatening emergencies.
The trust, which is backing the NHS national Stay Well This Winter campaign, experienced its busiest winter last year.
Officials are urging people to make use of local pharmacies for advice and treatment of common winter ailments and to access their GP surgery for non-urgent problems.
For problems which are urgent and cannot be looked after by visiting a pharmacy or a GP, residents can also use local urgent care centres based at Wansbeck, North Tyneside and Hexham general hospitals.
And only if residents are seriously ill or injured – such as experiencing loss of consciousness, severe abdominal pain or sudden shortness of breath – should they make use of The Northumbria hospital.
Dr Chris Biggin, clinical director for emergency care at the trust, said: ““Like the NHS across the country, last winter was our busiest on record with unprecedented demand for our urgent and emergency care services.
“It really is vital that people think about how they access services this winter and that they take accountability for looking after themselves well.
“Many of the attendances we saw last year did not need hospital intervention.”
“The Northumbria hospital is for those who are seriously ill or injured and we would call upon everyone to keep it free for those who need it most.
“Thankfully, most people will not need to use this service with their healthcare needs being catered for by visiting their local pharmacy, accessing their GP surgery or going to their local urgent care centre.
“We would also like to remind people that NHS 111 is available at all times if people are unclear where they should go – they will direct you to the most appropriate place.”
Stay Well This Winter is a joint initiative from NHS England and Public Health England, to help people with long-term conditions and those over 65 prepare for winter and ward off common winter illnesses.
The campaign urges the public to:
• Make sure you get your flu jab if eligible.
• Keep yourself warm – heat your home to least 18 degrees C (or 65F) if you can.
• If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, then get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious.
• Make sure you get your prescription medicines before GP surgeries and pharmacies close for the Christmas holidays
• Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over winter.
For more information about the campaign visit nhs.uk/staywell or about services in Northumberland and North Tyneside visit www.northumbria.nhs.uk