ONLY come to hospital in a genuine emergency and look out for your elderly neighbours.

That is the Christmas message from one of Royal Bournemouth Hospital’s most senior consultants.

The National Health Service is set to be put even more strain over the festive period.

However, Dr Farhad Islam, lead clinician in Royal Bournemouth’s emergency department, said plans are in place to manage the situation and staff are “cautiously hoping” for a mild flu hit this winter.

“We do have plans in place,” said Dr Islam. “We’re opening a whole ward’s worth of extra beds to cope with the winter pressures.

“The brand A&E is a victim of its own success. There’s a six per cent year-on-year growth in numbers to emergency departments, and we’re busier at Royal Bournemouth Hospital this year too.

“People know they will be seen by a doctor within four hours and treated. But if anyone feels unwell, they need to think of the alternatives: calling 111, going to an urgent treatment centre, or seeing a pharmacist.

“If they’ve had back pain for three months, it’s not an emergency.

“Otherwise, it puts pressure on the system and it’s not fair on other patients.

“We want to concentrate on the injured and the seriously ill. We’re there to provide a great service for people in emergencies. If you have flu-like symptoms, you’re better off recovering at home.”

Both Royal Bournemouth and Poole hospital have urged patients not to come in if they have, or recently had, flu or other winter illnesses like norovirus. At Poole, 90 per cent of front line staff have had a flu vaccination to protect themselves, patients, family and colleagues.

A Poole Hospital spokesperson said: "The Christmas and New Year period are always busy times for A&E departments, and this year is set to be no exception.

"As ever, we would ask the public to use health services appropriately and responsibly to ensure that our valuable resources can be prioritised for those in need of urgent life-saving care."

Dr Islam said the ambulance do an “incredible” job and keep 50 per cent of patients they are called to at home.

He added: “The message from the department is: look out for your neighbour at Christmas, especially if they’re elderly. See if they need a blanket or help getting a meal.”

For more information about health care support in Dorset over Christmas go to