HALF the patients who visit Huddersfield's accident and emergency department are time-wasters, it emerged today.
Up to 600 people out of 1,200 patients a week needlessly visit the A&E department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
And the figure is set to soar over the Christmas period as health services close for the holidays, hospital staff have warned.
Today patients were urged to visit the department only in real emergencies.
Mike Clayton, A&E consultant at HRI, said: "A&E is the right choice when someone has an acute illness or injury and needs emergency care.
"This means illness or injuries that are sudden and unexpected, rather than conditions that have been ongoing for some time.
"Please remember that A&E is not an alternative to your GP."
Julie Dean, A&E matron at HRI, said misuse of the department put even more pressure on the service.
She said: "A&E staff are put under unnecessary pressure by people coming in with minor aches and pains that are best treated at home, after taking advice from a pharmacist or NHS direct.
"Patients attending A&E with inappropriate complaints such as toothache, minor sprains and those wanting health checks or advice on sexual health will be directed to a more appropriate healthcare adviser.
"There is a whole range of NHS services there to help people.
"NHS Direct provides excellent advice on the full range of medical complaints and can help to assess whether a trip to A&E is necessary.
"Pharmacists are also highly skilled and can offer advice and treatment for coughs and colds, earache and stomach ache.
"Patients attending A&E with mild diarrhoea and vomiting pose an infection risk to other patients and staff and should make their GP the first port of call."
People should contact their GPs and make use of out of hours services or contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 before going to A&E.