People are being urged to stay away from A&E departments over the Christmas period unless it is "absolutely necessary" as senior doctors and NHS bosses in England anticipate a peak in demand between Boxing Day and 29 December. Alcohol misuse is expected to fuel the surge of emergency admissions.
The number of people attending A&E with probable alcohol poisoning has doubled in six years, according to a recent report by the Nuffield Trust, while general emergency admissions through A&E have risen 44% since 2004/05, with the number of visits increasing by two million over the same period.
In 2014, there were more A&E visits and more NHS 111 and ambulance calls than ever before. Due to the high demand, 30 hospitals were forced to turn away patients.
Professor Keith Willett, the National Clinical Director for Acute Care at NHS England, told Sky News that while A&E is available for people who need emergency help, those with minor complaints should seek alternative services and remedies.
"The NHS is open seven days a week, 365 days a year for those who need emergency help," Prof Willett said. "But A&E experiences a surge in the days following Christmas and the New Year. Younger, fitter people can help our hard-working NHS doctors and nurses by only attending if it's absolutely necessary."
People are advised to keep winter remedies such as over-the-counter painkillers and cough syrups at home and use a pharmacist as a "first point of contact when you're unwell". Those suffering from viral coughs, flu and other minor illnesses have been told to recover at home.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has also warned that Christmas can be a dangerous time, with risks of injury due to flammable decorations, cables for new gadgets, unsafe toys and trailing wires.
NHS England is also advising families to keep homes properly heated and to watch out for elderly relatives and neighbours.