Health bosses have warned the public not to visit A&E for minor illnesses as Hertfordshire hospitals are experiencing “extreme pressure”.

The Hertfordshire & West Essex integrated care board warned A&E services at Watford General Hospital, Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, and Lister Hospital in Stevenage are being “stretched” by the number of people calling on them for help.

Health bosses have ordered the public not to attend A&E with minor illnesses as they will face an “extremely long wait” and may be sent away to visit a GP or pharmacist. 

Chief Executive of the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board Dr Jane Halpin said: “The Accident and Emergency departments at our hospitals only have the capacity to treat people who have serious, life-threatening or dangerous conditions." 

She said that ambulances should only be called in genuine emergencies as it could “endanger the life of another person in desperate need of emergency care” when called incorrectly.

Dr Halpin warned that attending hospital with a common winter illness, such as chest infection, cough and cold, diarrhoea or vomiting, could spread it to people who are seriously ill, potentially forcing hospital wards to close.

She added: “Our services are under extreme pressure, which is why it’s vital that everyone understands the urgency of the situation and what they can do to ensure that we protect essential health services for when we really need them.”   

If the public feels ill, they are advised to consult the NHS website, visit a pharmacy,  Contact their GP practice or call 111.