Hospital staff are bracing themselves for a busy holiday period with an average of 400 people a day expected to turn up at the A&E departments.

This has led to a plea for people to stay away from hospitals in Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone if at all possible.

They are being urged instead to visit their GP or one of the minor injury units that can be found in Crowborough, Uckfield, Sevenoaks and Edenbridge.

One third of patients who attend A&E have health problems that could be treated by a GP or a minor injury unit, according to the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) which manages both hospitals.

With many people drinking to excess at Christmas parties or experiencing problems relating to the cold weather, December and January have traditionally proved busy months for the NHS.

The Trust’s Medical Director Peter Maskell said that by selecting the most appropriate option for treatment, patients can receive care more efficiently.

“Our emergency departments do provide services for minor injuries or illnesses, but patients can often wait much longer than in other urgent care services,” he said.

“Emergency patients take priority at A&E. Dedicated minor injury units offer faster treatment for a range of illnesses and injuries.

“These include: Sprains, strains, fractures, minor cuts, wounds, insect and animal bites, eye injuries, burns and scalds.”

In their most recent Care Quality Commission report, MTW was said to ‘require improvement’. The trust missed their NHS target of having 95 per cent of patients seen in A&E within four hours.

It achieved 89.4 per cent.