A LARGE proportion of the 4,500 people using emergency departments at hospitals across the North-East on the opening day of October should have been seen elsewhere, added to the 'serious stress' the deparments are already facing.

NHS organisations across the region and Cumbria have combined to issue a stark warning to patients to use hosptial services properly as pressure increases as we enter the winter months.

The warning came after staff working within emergency departments witnessed a signt increase in attendances this week, on top of already record levels.

It was reported that, of the more than 4,500 people who attended the region's emergency deparments on October 1, many should have been seen elsewhere for illnesses like flu, which can be managed or avoided through vaccination and self-care.

Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer for the five clinical commissioning groups across Durham and Tees Valley, said: "We need to be honest about the consequences that their decisions lead to.

"For instance, not getting your flu jab will almost certainly mean more pressure on our nurses and doctor - even if you never get sick, you can still carry it and infect others.

"Equally, attending emergency departments when you don't need it inevitabley means a longer wait for someone else, with potentially dire results."

The NHS organisations were reminding people that emergency departments and 999 calls should only be used if a patient was in need of critical or life-saving care.