PATIENTS were told to stay away from A&E unless absolutely necessary as Colchester Hospital saw a surge in visitors post Christmas.

Both the East Suffolk and North Essex Trust, which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals, and chief executive Nick Hulme warned patients the hospitals were busy on Monday night.

Instead people were asked to call 111 if they needed help but didn’t need to attend A&E.

In a Tweet Mr Hulme said the hospitals were “experiencing high level of activity.”

The trust predicts 225 people attended the emergency department on Monday - 89 people were admitted.

On Christmas Day it is thought 171 people attended and on Boxing Day it was 196.

NHS guidance says people should attend A&E if they have lost consciousness, have chest pain, breathing difficulties or severe bleeding.

It also advises a trip if you have had a severe allergic reaction, burns or scalds or think you may have had a stroke.

The NHS says less severe injuries can be treated at a urgent treatment centre or minor injuries unit.

Mr Hulme said: “It is important to make sure we keep our emergency department available for the people who really need it.

“We are still sadly seeing a lot of people using A&E as a primary care service instead of going to their local pharmacy, calling 111 or going to their GP.”

“They’re arriving with fairly minor injuries and illnesses which they could manage themselves or could have been treated by an alternative service, so the numbers we’re seeing are very high, but it’s the degree of illness and acuity of patients which is something I’ve not seen in my career in the NHS – people are living longer, but not necessarily healthier, lives.

“We would never discourage anyone from seeking help and treatment, however if you have a minor illness or injury you can contact your GP in normal surgery hours or speak to your local pharmacist. Many pharmacies are open late night and at weekends and some are open on bank holidays too.

“The NHS 111 service is also available online and on the telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week for advice. If you need to come to hospital, the teams running these services will let you know.”