Patients are being urged to avoid the Accident and Emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital unless absolutely necessary due to a peak of very high demand following the weekend.

Hospitals across Lancashire are near full capacity once more following the spell of cold weather over the weekend, and to make sure that the sickest people can still be seen as a priority, hospital bosses are reminding everyone that A and E is for medical emergencies only.

Dr Damian Riley, medical director at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are once more seeing very high levels of demand and as a result our A and E department is very busy.

“It really is vital that we keep A and E free for those who really need it for medical emergencies. Wherever possible we urge people to see their pharmacist or their own GP first.

“To cope with the extra demand for hospital beds we have opened extra wards and brought in extra staff, so that we can continue to provide safe treatment. When we are very busy like this it means that waiting times are increased as the sickest patients are given priority.”

Hospital bosses say there are lots of options for the public to seek medical advice without coming to A and E which include the Urgent Care Centre at Burnley General Hospital which is open 24 hours, the Minor Injury Units at Rossendale Primary Care Centre and Accrington Victoria Hospital are both open from 8am to 8pm, local GP practices and pharmacists and the NHS Telephone advice line 111.

You can also check the NHS Choices website for self-care.