THE Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is urging people to know the correct service to contact before calling as winter approaches.

The trust, which runs Andover War Memorial Hospital, has reported 15 per cent of patients who visit the A&E departments at its Basingstoke and Winchester hospitals could receive the treatment they need from their GP.

With pressure on the NHS expected to increase over the winter months, the trust is asking patients to consider which service is best for them.

It has said to only call 999 in the event of a lifethreatening emergency, such as persistent, severe chest pain or breathing difficulties.

If it is in regard to an illness or injury that is not life threatening, then the advice is to contact a GP first.

GPs can treat and offer expert advice on a wide range of conditions.

When unsure about which service would best suit the current situation or the GP service is closed, call NHS 111 on 111, where operators can give advice and point to the most appropriate service.

Dr Louisa Chan, clinical director for unscheduled care at the trust, said: “We treated a record number of patients in our emergency departments last winter and expect to treat a similar number of people this year as well.

“Staff across the trust are doing a fantastic job of treating people who come into our emergency departments, but we need everyone to help ease the pressure on them by making sure that they use the correct service.

“Over the last few months we have had people presenting at our emergency departments with things like sore throats and earache. These people certainly could have arranged for a consultation with their GP, reducing waiting times for everyone and allowing us to concentrate on patients who really need our specialist help.”

Action is being taken to reduce waiting times, with Department of Health funds being used to introduce a primary care streaming service.

This service will see some patients treated by on-site doctors rather than in the emergency department.

Dr Chan added: “However, it is still vitally important that people help us by making sure that visiting the emergency department is the right course of action for them to take.”