Epsom and St Helier Hospitals released cautionary A&E advice for residents in the area ahead of the heatwave expected this Bank Holiday weekend (August 24-27).

Doctors from the joint NHS Trust reminded residents that the August Bank Holiday was a "traditionally very pressured time for A&E departments across the country".

They also pointed out that last month's heatwave put an extra strain on both hospitals' emergency services and signalled that this was a possibility again at the weekend.

As the Comet reported in July, a heatwave at the end of that month led to soaring temperatures on wards at Epsom Hospital, forcing staff to ship in emergency portable air conditioning units in order to keep patients cool.

"During July – a month that saw temperatures rise to 38°C – more than 14,100 people sought emergency care in our hospitals, an increase of 6 per cent on the previous month and the highest number of attendances on record," a spokesperson from Epsom and St Helier Hospitals NHS Trust said.

"Bank holidays are often very busy times for hospitals across the country, and although our A&E departments are open 24/7 and staffed by experts trained to deal with any situation, such large numbers of patients through the doors can mean long waits for people with more minor injuries, and can put additional pressure on the service," they added.

Deputy Chief Executive and Joint Medical Director, Dr Ruth Charlton added a personal plea for residents to use A&E services at the hospitals only in the cases of genuine emergencies:

"Whilst I recommend everyone makes the most of the extra-long weekend, I would ask people to be extra careful and to enjoy the heat and sun safely by making sure that you stay cool and hydrated – and don't forget sunscreen.

"The majority of people who come to our A&E services are in genuine need, but if you need medical care and it’s not an emergency you may face a long wait, and there are a number of alternatives to consider that could help you avoid that," she said.

Those alternatives including calling highly trained NHS advisors on the special advice number, 111.

Contacting on call or out-of-ours GPs in the area, and going to any one of the NHS walk-in health centres in the region were also recommended.

Dr Charlton said that the business expected this bank holiday weekend was just a single symptom of the wider pressures currently facing NHS hospitals and staff.

Plans to build a new facility for the most serious patients across Epsom and St Helier might alleviate this in the future, she added.

"As our hospitals become busier and busier every year, we have had to consider how best we can keep up with the demands on our services for generations to come – that’s why we have proposed a plan to build a brand new hospital facility for our very sickest patients on one of our three sites, while most patients (85% in fact) will see no change to where they are cared for.

"This will mean consolidated care for our sickest patients, reduced waiting times for people with urgent but not life threatening conditions and injuries, and an acute facility that is fit for 21st century healthcare."