A PUBLIC appeal to people NOT to come into A&E unless they absolutely have to is hardly the way hospital bosses will have wanted to end 2014. But clearly they feel they have no choice.

York, like other hospitals across the country, has been struggling to cope with the sheer number of patients over the Christmas period.

There has been a ‘perfect storm’ of patients, says the hospital’s medical director Dr Alastair Turnbull. This, combined with staff shortages, bed closures and the fact that the hospital has been unable to discharge as many patients as it would normally do, has led to what the medical director describes as “one of the busiest times I have seen in 20 years”.

The hospital is still functioning, Dr Turnbull stressed. But it needed to make sure as many hospital beds were available as possible for patients who needed them most.

“Due to the pressures we are facing, and with New Year’s Eve nearly upon us, we are appealing to the public to think very carefully about whether they need to visit A&E,” he said.

“You can really help us by taking the appropriate action to treat your condition, which might mean contacting your GP or attending a pharmacy, walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.”

York Hospital isn’t alone in facing such pressures this winter. BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle has said the problems have two causes. More people are visiting A&E than ever before. But hospitals are also finding it harder to discharge patients – partly because of cuts in councils’ social care budgets.

This latter is an issue Whitehall politicians must face up to, and quickly. But in the meantime, we would urge people not to turn up at A&E unless they really need to and have nowhere else to turn.