PATIENTS are being turned away from Royal Albert Edward Infirmary's accident and emergency department due to ‘unprecedented demand’ on its services.

Unless it is a serious and life-threatening emergency residents are being directed elsewhere.

A spokesman for the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital in Wigan, said: “Our A&E service is experiencing an unprecedented demand on its services.

“We are asking the public to not come to Wigan A&E unless it is a serious and life-threatening emergency."

Waiting times at the hospital for conditions not deemed to be serious are up to four hours.

Mary Fleming, director of operations at the trust, said: "Our message is simple – if you have a serious, urgent medical emergency go to A&E or dial 999.

“Unnecessary attendances to our A&E prevents doctors and nurses from seeing patients who need urgent care quickly and puts a strain on the whole of the hospital.

“With the support of the public we can make sure that we are focusing our attention on our very poorly patients who are suffering serious medical emergencies.”

Unless urgent medical treatment is required residents are urged to utilise the following alternative services: • Extended GP service: Book an appointment to see a GP or nurse until 8pm weekdays and between 10am and 4pm at the weekend. To book call 01942 482848.

• Out of hours GP service: Call 01942 829911.

• Leigh Walk-in Centre: For treatment of cuts, bruises, minor infections, stomach upsets, strains and skin complaints without an appointment. Contact 01942 483453.

• Pharmacists: Get help from experts in providing medical information and advice, including coughs, colds, wheezing and minor ailments. You can just drop in to see your pharmacist and many have private consultation areas.

• NHS 111 service: Non-emergency medical help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by fully trained advisors and experienced clinicians.