TIME wasters are clogging up emergency hospital services in Chester.

Alarming new figures highlight that more and more people are heading straight to the Countess of Chester’s Accident and Emergency department with trivial ailments and complaints.

A report released this week has shown that one out of every four people who go to A&E don’t need to be there – at a cost of £79.25 million a year to hospitals in the region, including the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Patients arriving with minor ailments such as coughs, colds and even broken finger nails have been branded as “time wasters” by NHS staff. Analysts say that the cost is rising and NHS staff have now given their backing to the ‘Choose Well’ campaign, that aims to tackle the rise in A&E attendance.

Local GP and West Cheshire Health Consortium Board member, Dr Andy McAlavey, said: “The figures are alarming. To put it in more practical terms, £79.25 million is the equivalent of 752 GPs. It seems that people are forgetting the purpose of A&E departments.”

Casualty teams are faced with having to deal with cases such as backache and upset stomachs on a daily basis – conditions that they say could be better dealt with through a trip to the high street chemist.

The ‘Choose Well’ campaign aims to help people make the right choice and use the right service to get the right treatment.

Dr McAlavey added: “The number of people using A&E – and 999 services – is going up year on year in the North West. I think that we need to get back to the message that A&E departments are for life-threatening and emergency conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems and serious accidents.

“Our hospital A&E teams deal with some of the highest numbers of people who have life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and lung disease in the country. We need to make sure they can concentrate on helping these emergency cases.”