New figures reveal that one in four (59,578 of the 238,313) patients who attended A&E in Cambridgeshire during 2014/15 could have self-cared or used alternative services.
This could have saved the NHS over £4 million – the equivalent cost of 677 hip replacements, 287 liver transplants or 115 more dementia nurses.
The figures come a day after the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust announced at its annual public meeting that it had met A&E waiting times for the past three months.
The combination of school holidays, warm weather and a Bank Holiday traditionally make August a busy period for the region’s A&E departments.
Local health chiefs and GPs across Cambridgeshire are now urging the general public to ensure they only use A&E for emergencies to help keep it available for those who really need it and ensure that NHS money is spent most effectively.
Dr Neil Modha, local GP and chief clinical officer for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group said: “A&E departments are often seen as the first place to go, when in fact there are other NHS services that may be more suitable, such as your local pharmacy, walk in centre or GP.
“With each visit to A&E costing the NHS a minimum of £87, it’s crucial that people choose the right health service for their illness or injury.
“If you need medical help fast, but are unsure where to go, then call NHS 111. Available 24-7, 365 days a year, NHS 111 is a fast and easy way to direct you to the right service.”
Increased demand on A&E departments can also have a dramatic knock-on effect on the rest of the services a hospital provides, resulting in cancelled operations, bed shortages and longer waiting and referral times.
Greater numbers of beds occupied by patients admitted as an emergency mean there are fewer beds available for planned operations.
In the 12 months from April 2014 to March 2015, more than 500 residents living in Cambridgeshire had their planned operations and procedures cancelled and rearranged because their hospital bed was no longer available.
Around a further 200 operations and procedures were postponed for the same reason for people living outside the area but due to have their operation in one of the hospitals.
Neil Doverty, chief operating officer at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “By choosing the most appropriate service people can help themselves to get a quicker, more appropriate response.
“I hope people can appreciate the effect that they can have if they don’t just head straight to the Emergency Department at the first sign of a minor issue.
“By seeking the right treatment from an alternative service, those with minor ailments will ultimately make the ED a safer place for the other, more seriously ill patients who need urgent medical attention.”