SCOTS revellers have been warned not to clog up A&E departments with minor injuries after a day that saw medics at one hospital treat a patient every four minutes.
The request comes after almost 500 people flooded accidents departments in the Edinburgh area on one day last weekend.
Many of the casualties last Friday had suffered minor injuries after drinking too much at parties and could have seen their GP, according to NHS Lothian.
Accident and emergency doctors at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary treated 342 patients on December 16 while their colleagues at St John’s, Livingston, West Lothian, saw 126.
Dr Dave Caesar, Clinical Director for Emergency Medicine at NHS Lothian, said many of these cases could have been treated in the minor injuries clinic or by a family doctor.
He said: “We work around the clock to make sure that patients receive the best treatment as swiftly as possible.
“However, we would ask people to think twice before they turn up to the Emergency Departments and question whether their ailment really is an emergency.
“It could be that they could receive the same treatment much more quickly in a minor injuries clinic or could have accessed advice from NHS 24 or from their pharmacist.
“Patients are obviously treated in order of urgency, so if they are unfortunately waiting to be treated for something minor like a sprained ankle, they may wait much longer than someone who has arrived in an ambulance with life threatening injuries.”
He added: “We would also advise people to take extra care when they are out and about, dress for the weather and try to drink responsibly. No-one enjoys spending Christmas in the Emergency Department.”
The A&E department is designed to care for people with problems which are “urgent and emergencies”.
The health board treat minor injuries such as cuts, burns, sprains and simple fractures at a dedicated unit at the Western General Hospital.
Earlier this year a boss at the area’s biggest hospital lashed out at patients for using his accident department “like a McDonald’s”.
In November David Farquharson criticised the growing number of people seeking emergency treatment at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary who are suffering only from “coughs and colds”.
He claimed that young people in particular seemed to view the emergency department as the medial equivalent of the fast-food business.
And he complained that the hospital was struggling to meet its waiting time targets as a result of being clogged with trivial cases.
At the time Mr Farquharson, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “The main challenge is in the increasing number of the public accessing A&E in the first place.
“Often they are not going to their GP and are using A&E as primary care.”
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