Doctors in Huntingdonshire are urging residents to seek medical advice and help from them for minor conditions, instead of going to A&E.

Huntingdon's Hinchingbrooke Hospital has seen a rise in the number of people using the emergency department this year, often for minor ailments including back pain and persistent coughing.

A trust board meeting at the hospital held in March heard that in the month of February alone the number of people who attended A&E was 3,641, up by 16.6 per cent in compared to the same month the previous year.

Dr Suzanne Hamilton, associate medical director at Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust, said: "An emergency department deals with genuine emergencies, including loss of consciousness; acute confused state and fits that are not stopping; persistent, severe chest pain; breathing difficulties; severe bleeding that cannot be stopped; severe allergic reactions; severe burns or scalds; and broken bones."

Dr Sripat Pai, Huntingdonshire GP, said "If you have a minor medical problem that you feel you cannot treat at home with over the counter medication, then please do make an appointment to see your GP or visit a local pharmacist.

"Every GP practice has an oncall doctor if you feel you need to be seen urgently the same day. We also have practice nurses who can help with a wide range of medical problems including minor illnesses such as coughs, rashes, cystitis, bites, stings as well as changing dressings, and chronic disease management (such as diabetes). "Please do not put off coming to see us, make time to get your medical problems sorted out and don't leave them until you feel you need to go to A&E."

Pharmacists are another good option for basic minor medical problems, and with five year's training, they are experts in their field.

For more information and advice visit www.cambsandpeterboroughchoosewell.co.uk