Hospitals say people are attending A&E when they should go to their GP
Patients in north Wales are being urged to think carefully before going to hospital accident and emergency units.
Leaflets are being sent to every home in the area explaining that they are only for people who are seriously ill or whose lives are in danger.
It comes as hospital managers try to stop too many people going to A&E.
They want to raise awareness of other medical services in the community, such as minor injuries units at some hospitals and GP out-of-hours services.
The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which provides hospital services for some 676,000 people across north Wales, launched the Choose Well campaign.
OTHER MEDICAL SERVICES
Self-care: Many illnesses can be treated at home by using over-the-counter medicine, taking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of rest.
NHS Direct Wales: It offers confidential health advice and information 24 hours a day by either calling 0845 46 47, or via the internet: www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk
Pharmacist Visit a pharmacy when you have a common health problem which does not require being seen by a nurse or doctor
GP and out-of-hours services: GP advice is available outside office hours. Telephone your usual GP number or NHS Direct Wales.
Dental services: If not registered with a dentist and need urgent treatment, call the North Wales Dental Helpline on 0845 60 10 128
Minor injuries units: Located at some hospitals, these should be used for the treatment of minor injuries such as cuts, bites, stings and muscle and joint injuries. There is no need for an appointment.
Source: Choose Well campaign
It said that every year, thousands of people visit A&E at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan and Ysbyty Maelor, Wrexham, when another service might have been more appropriate.
The health board said it meant that patients have to wait longer to be seen and increases the pressure on staff at peak times.
It is sending leaflets to residents which to help signpost patients to the service that is most appropriate for them depending on the severity of their condition.
Linda Dykes, consultant in emergency medicine at the health board, said: "The three emergency departments (A&E) across north Wales provide the whole range of emergency care for adults and children 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"However, we see thousands of patients with problems that are well within the capability of minor injuries units or GPs, who can provide a more convenient service. We ask people to use the service sensibly and consider other options whenever possible.
Dr Lyndon Miles, a GP and vice-chair of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: "It is crucial we get the message out to the public about the whole range of NHS services that are available locally.
"Choosing the right service will ensure that they receive the best possible treatment and allow the emergency services to help those most in need."