The NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside is asking people to think carefully about which health service to use this winter as the number of admissions to hospitals in the area continues to rise.

After a busy festive period, ailments arising from cold weather and flu as well as cases of the winter bug, norovirus, mean demand on NHS services is heightened.

Conditions like heart disease, stroke and lung illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are worsened by the cold weather. It can also be a difficult time for asthma suffers, while cases of respiratory illness often go up 100 per cent, causing hospital beds to fill up quickly.

This handy graphic can help you decide on the right option for you

People are being urged, at the first sign of minor ailment, to self-care or get advice from their local pharmacy and are being reminded that by choosing the right service, they can get the best treatment in the shortest possible time. This helps to keep A&E departments free to treat patients with the most serious conditions who need urgent care.

During the recent festive period and into the New Year, many NHS services have put additional medical and support staff in place to manage increased demand at this busy time of the year.

Dr Kieran Murphy, Medical Director at NHS England, (Cheshire & Merseyside), said: “Our hospitals are currently seeing high volumes of very unwell patients. To manage the increased demand on services that we experience every winter, we have plans in place to ensure that services continue to run as smoothly as possible while ensuring that patients’ needs continue to be met.

“It’s not about stopping those who need urgent medical attention from going to A&E, but about helping at-risk groups stay well and warding off common winter illnesses before they become more serious and a hospital stay is needed.

“However, we are also urging anyone with a non-urgent medical complaint to support us by making full use of alternative community services such as your pharmacist or by self-care at home when appropriate. This can really help reduce pressure on other parts of the NHS, for example calls to 999 or visits to A&E.

“Those in at risk categories can also help by availing of their free flu jab. It’s the best way to ensure protection against catching flu and developing serious complications.”

Choosing which service is right for you at a given time may not always be easy – often you have more than one option.”