Wharfedale and Aireborough residents are being reminded only to use hospital A&E departments in real emergencies.

Accident and emergency staff at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s University Hospital have been put under strain in recent weeks due to a rise in visits from people with minor ailments or injuries.

Some people have also been going to A&E suffering with symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting and flu, increasing the risk of contagious illnesses spreading to more vulnerable patients.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is asking people to consider other options, including staying at home while self-medicating – for things like diarrhoea, vomiting or flu – or using minor injuries services, such as those at Wharfedale Hospital in Otley.

The Trust’s divisional manager for medicine, Philip Norman, said: “The winter period always sees an increase in the workload of our A&E departments, and this is made worse over the Christmas and New Year period when people often turn up at hospital when they could seek help more appropriately from other sources.

“This in turn slows down the ability of our staff to deal with real emergencies. This year there is also a lot of seasonal winter illness around causing diarrhoea and vomiting, and we have seen an increasing number of younger people coming to A&E with this sort of bug, as well as with influenza.

“The best advice to them is to stay at home, drink plenty of fluids and take over-the-counter medications to alleviate the symptoms.

“Going out when you have this type of infectious illness risks spreading it to others, and there is a particular risk in coming to hospital that other, more vulnerable, patients could catch it.

“Also, please don’t visit family and friends in hospital if you have a bug, and for 48 hours afterwards.”

Other alternatives to visiting an A&E department include: l calling the West Yorkshire Urgent Care Service on 0345 6059999 to discuss an unexpected health problem or get access to an out-of-hours GP l visiting the minor injuries units at Wharfedale Hospital, Otley, or St George’s Centre, Middleton l talking to NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or visiting nhsdirect.nhs.uk l consulting your local pharmacy, which has an emergency rota to cover bank holidays.