A campaign has been launched in a bid to stop Brighton’s A&E department being overwhelmed this winter.
Health bosses are enlisting the help of residents to ensure the Royal Sussex County Hospital is not put under pressure unnecessarily.
Admissions always rise in winter with people suffering from winter- related illnesses and accidents – but one in three of patients do not need to be there.
In response Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is working with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and other organisations to raise the profile of alternative services available.
The campaign will also celebrate those people who make the right choices and get their problems treated in the right place.
CCG chairman Xavier Nalletamby said: “Already this year the Royal Sussex has seen people at A&E with toothache, constipation, hangovers, flu and bee stings – all painful or annoying problems but not ones needing to be treated by emergency staff.
“Remember when you don’t choose A&E the service is able to concentrate on people suffering from strokes, heart attacks and other life-threatening illnesses.
“Save A&E for saving lives and be our hero.”
The drive is supported by hospital chief executive Matthew Kershaw, who said the patients need to go to “the most appropriate place to get their care”.
A&E lead consultant Paul Wallman said people assume going to the emergency department is the best option – but they are better off going somewhere else.
He added: “Obviously we don’t want to put people off if they are seriously hurt or have fallen very ill and are having chest pain or stroke symptoms. However there are cases where we have patients turning up when they could have been helped elsewhere.”
The campaign uses local people to promote the NHS 111 phoneline and GP and out-of-hours services as well as the Brighton Station walk-in centre, which treats minor injuries and ailments and is open from 8am-8pm every day.
The city’s pharmacies, some of which are open late, can offer advice and over-the-counter medication for a whole range of problems.
Posters promoting the campaign will be at bus stops and in public spaces and leaflets will also be distributed.
A new website, which includes videos, a game and information, can be found at www.wecouldbeheroes. nhs.uk.
People can also follow the campaign on Twitter using the hash tag #beahero.