The NHS has released an urgent plea as services across Hertfordshire and Essex experience "major pressures".

The public have been reminded to only call for an ambulance in "genuine emergencies".


Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Lister Hospital in Stevenage and Watford General, the ambulance service, GP practices and community health services are all currently stretched by the number of people calling on them for help.

Dr Jane Halpin, chief executive of the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board, said: "The Accident and Emergency departments at our hospitals only have the capacity to treat people who have serious, life-threatening or dangerous conditions. Ambulances should only be called in genuine emergencies.

"If you use emergency services incorrectly you are risking the lives of others and won’t get the best treatment for your illness.

“If you come to A&E in Hertfordshire with a minor condition or illness, your care will not be a priority and you will face an extremely long wait.

"You may be sent away to visit a GP or pharmacist. If you call 999 for an ambulance and you don’t need one, you could endanger the life of another person in desperate need of emergency care.

“Please do not come to hospital as a patient or a visitor if you have a common winter illness, such as a chest infection, cough and cold, diarrhoea or vomiting.

"Spreading your minor illness to people who are seriously ill can close hospital wards and won’t get you the help you need.

“As usual do not enter a hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 and when visiting hospitals please wear a mask.

“Our services are under extreme pressure, which is why it’s vital that everyone understands the urgency of the situation and what they can do to ensure that we protect essential health services for when we really need them.”

Health advice can be found on the NHS website (, by visiting a pharmacy, contacting a GP practice or by calling 111.