The NHS is urging people to consider the most appropriate place to go when feeling unwell to help relieve “unprecedented demand” at hospitals.

Dr Neil Modha, chief clinical officer for the NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), advised using A&E or 999 only when people are acutely ill or in a life-threatening condition.

Instead, people should see their GP, or use minor injury units or walk-in centres. If their GP practice is closed, he suggested calling the out-of-hours GP service first on 111, or seeking advice from a pharmacist.

Figures show attendance at A&E in all of the CCG's trusts was up by as much as 10 per cent, compared to 2013. At Hinchingbrooke, despite the rise in demand, it was last week seeing 96 per cent of patients within four hours.

Dr Modha said: “We're seeing unprecedented demand. Attendance at emergency departments are up in every hospital and all hospitals have patients who are awaiting discharge but require health or social care in the community.

“Social care and community health services are under pressure as they support increasingly more complex patients in the community to enable people to retain independence and avoid hospital admissions or leave hospital earlier where clinically appropriate.

“This is a challenge for the NHS under huge stress – but we want to reassure patients NHS leaders are working to manage this exceptionally busy time and ensure patient care remains high quality throughout.”