SOUTHAMPTON residents are being urged to use the city’s Urgent Treatment Centre over the Christmas period.

The call is being made to take the strain off A&E services and avoid long waiting times.

The centre is based at the Royal South Hants Hospital and offers support for a range of minor injuries and illnesses.

With average waiting times reported to be shorter than those in A&E it is open from 7.30am to 10pm on weekdays and 8am to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays.

The last patient is accepted at 9.30pm.

Hospital director Penny Daniels said: “The long Christmas holidays are a time when A&E services are already very busy. People are out and about and accidents happen, especially when it is icy. Throughout the holidays, children - and the adults trying to keep up with them - can be prone to slips and trips as they play and try out their new bikes. We can offer X-ray facilities and treatment in a relaxed environment.”

Those visiting the UTC over Christmas this year may be treated by Sophie Wyness.

The senior paramedic practitioner said: “I worked on Christmas Day last year too. We generally see lots of vegetable related injuries, so please be careful when preparing dinner and chopping the veg.”

Deputy service manager Claire Sloper will be helping to coordinate the day. She said: “We like to make sure that our staff are looked after at this time of year, which is why we prepare a festive feast for staff working on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The show must go on but there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy some festive treats too.”

The team, which includes a GP, can deal with most minor illness and injury issues but cannot treat patients experiencing chest pain, breathing difficulties, major injuries, severe stomach pains or conditions likely to require hospital admission.

Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should always call 999.