Between Christmas Eve and January 2, the A and E department saw 1,366 people attend, a nine per cent increase on the previous year. Northern Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT) also saw an additional 100 patients admitted to hospital at NDDH, an increase of 22 per cent on the same time period. The trust says staff have worked extremely hard to prepare for winter and were seeing an increased number of very poorly patients. It has asked people to support their local NHS during this busy time by choosing the right healthcare service for their needs. This could be a minor injuries service, local pharmacy or GP, and if people need urgent medical advice or reassurance they can call NHS 111. Liam Kevern, consultant and lead clinician at Barnstaples emergency department, said: By seeking treatment and advice elsewhere when its not a life-threatening illness or injury, you could spend less time waiting for appropriate treatment and advice and can help reduce waiting times for patients needing the most urgent care. The trust is also encouraging visitors to support their loved ones when they are in hospital and help prepare them to be discharged home. Darryn Allcorn, chief nurse, said: If you have a family member, a friend or a neighbour in hospital, there are a number of important things you can do that will aid their recovery while in hospital and also help them get home as soon as they are ready to be discharged. These include providing suitable clothing and shoes, staying in contact with the ward about their expected date of discharge and helping organise transport home. A number of patients were admitted to NDDH with flu over the festive season, and people can help to prevent the spread of flu in the community this year by getting the flu jab. The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk, including those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and those with certain long term conditions. Suzanne Tracey, chief executive of NDHT, said: This time of year is always challenging and in preparation for this winter we have increased our bed capacity, invested in staff and worked closely alongside our community partners to simplify processes and support our patients to keep well at home. We want to do whatever we can to make this winter better for our patients and staff and are asking patients and visitors to support us.