NON-URGENT A&E visits are costing Cheshire's NHS hospitals hundreds of thousands of pounds.

One in seven emergency visits at Macclesfield Hospital were made by patients with no obvious medical condition in 2019-20 – a total of 7,160 admissions – according to NHS Digital data.

Such visits cost East Cheshire NHS Trust a staggering £1.7 million last year, the figures show.

Meanwhile, Leighton Hospital saw 3,290 admissions for patients with no obvious medical condition in 2019-20, costing Mid Cheshire Hospitals £363,900.

And the Countess of Chester saw 2,540 such admissions at a cost of £408,800.

In total, the three hospital trusts forked out close to £2.5 million.

The NHS says A&E is for serious and life-threatening emergencies, with patients urged to call 111 over other urgent illnesses.

But Dr Adrian Boyle, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, warns there are 'many reasons' why someone could attend an emergency department and then be discharged with no serious diagnosis made.

"They may attend because there is simply no alternative, or they are directed there by an external agency," he said.

"If patients are unsure about attending A&E or if they have a non-life-threatening condition then they should call NHS 111 where they will be directed to the best care for their particular condition.

"But crucially patients won’t know the severity of their condition without clinical expertise or examination. Sometimes cases do show no abnormality and at those times we will discharge the patients appropriately.

"However, there are times when we do discover something serious and their attendance may save their life as we are able to swiftly provide appropriate treatment."

Dr Boyle added that concern over pressures on A&E departments should not be shouldered by the public, noting that an 'adequately staffed and funded' health service can meet patient and community demand.

Across all trusts in England which provided figures, £178 million was spent on 1.1 million non-urgent A&E attendances in 2019-20.

Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust health think tank, says that despite A&E attendances dropping significantly during the pandemic, those with a listed diagnosis of ‘nothing abnormal’ did not fall any further than other admission types.

She said: "This suggests that they could not be helped elsewhere in the system or still felt that A&E was the most appropriate service for them."

Ms Scobie added that the NHS has made several attempts to divert patients with less serious conditions, including encouraging patients to use the 111 service.

"This process may reduce pressure on ‘front door’ services but is unlikely to reduce admissions to hospitals from those with an urgent need for care," she said.