South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is now seeing an increasing demand on its emergency departments all year round and health bosses claim many people are attending hospital who do not require urgent treatment.
Patients are urged to help relieve pressure by choosing the right service for their needs.
They are advised to only attend South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital if they have a serious or life-threatening illness or injury.
Health chiefs say self-care and visiting a pharmacist should be the first port of call for ailments such as coughs and colds, upset stomachs and general aches and pains.
GPs are also now providing more convenient appointment times for patients outside the standard working day by offering extended opening hours in the evenings and at weekends.
Dr Sean Fenwick, Director of Operations for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We now face relentless pressure on our emergency departments all year round and are seeing increasing numbers of very ill patients.
“Unfortunately, there is still a large number of people attending who should be using other services as they do not require urgent treatment.”
He continued: “We are appealing to our local residents to play their part in helping us to give those most in need the care and treatment they require as quickly as possible by not automatically turning up at our emergency departments.
“We’re asking them to please think first and use their NHS wisely by choosing the right service for their needs. We are always extremely grateful for their support.”
NHS guidelines recommend that residents call NHS 111 if they have an urgent health need but are not sure if they need A&E.
Highly trained advisors, supported by healthcare professionals, will assess their symptoms and direct them to the best care.
For details of opening times for local GPs and pharmacists go to www.urgentoremergency.co.uk