Patients from across the region are putting their health at risk by heading to Otley’s minor injuries unit suffering from serious ailments.
The unit, run at Wharfedale Hospital by independent firm Local Care Direct, is only equipped to deal with relatively modest sprains, strains and wounds.
But statistics for the past year show that people have been travelling to Otley suffering from conditions including chest pains, serious head injuries and even anaphylactic shock, none of which can be treated at Wharfedale.
Instead, staff are having to refer increasing numbers of patients back to the areas they have travelled from, including Leeds and Bradford, to seek treatment at hospitals with accident and emergency capability.
As well as delaying patient treatment, the confusion also means staff in Otley are being tied up having to arrange more and more ambulance journeys to take people to the appropriate hospitals.
Over six months, 182 ambulances had to be called to ferry patients from Otley, many of whom had mistakenly sought treatment at the minor injuries unit.
Advanced nurse practitioner at Wharfedale Minor Injuries Unit, Deborah Jackson, is urging people to think about what care they need before choosing where to go.
She said: “The minor injuries unit here is led by highly-qualified nurses who have lots of experience and expertise in the treatment of minor injuries and are skilled in assessing patients.
“I would urge patients to choose the appropriate health care service so that they can be treated as quickly and effectively as possible.”
Patients should seek treatment from the minor injuries unit only for less serious injuries and illnesses, which can include minor burns and scalds, cuts, nose and rib injuries.
Sprained or broken shoulders, fingers, hips and toes can also be treated there, and there is a limited x-ray service.
The unit cannot treat anyone suffering from serious conditions including chest pains, severe bleeding, choking or losing consciousness.
It also has to refer anybody aged under two, over 65, or who has recently drunk alcohol to an A&E department elsewhere.