More than 1500 people sought medical help at Rotorua Hospital's emergency department this holiday period, a decrease from the previous two years.

For the 15-day period between December 24 and January 7, 1550 people went to the emergency department. This is down by 109 compared to last year's 1659 people.

In the 2015/16 holiday period 1555 people presented to the hospital's emergency department.

Lakes District Health Board clinical director emergency and medical management services, Dr Peter Freeman, said emergency departments were always busy during holidays and the Christmas New Year period.

He said extra staff were rostered on during this period which made a big difference to managing patient numbers.

"The increase in emergency department presentations during holidays is often due to the large numbers of visitors to Rotorua over the holiday period who do not have a GP in town.

"It is important for people to be prepared before they go on holiday and think about what medications they will need over the holiday period, especially if they have long term conditions."

Dr Freeman said it was important people remembered that even during holiday periods, the emergency department was for people with genuine unexpected emergencies.

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"Too often people head straight to the emergency department when they should really be going to their GP or family doctor. It's preferable that patients see their doctor in their own medical centre, and not simply turn up at the hospital emergency department."

Dr Freeman said GPs were specialists in providing healthcare in the community, whereas emergency department doctors provided specialist emergency care, not GP-level care.

"Patients coming to the emergency department will be initially assessed and then treated, according to the severity of their condition. This means that people who should be seeing their GP or family doctor, rather than going to the hospital, may have to wait quite a while to be treated, as the staff will always be treating emergency cases first."

Rotorua Lakes Primecare was open every day during the holiday period, with business manager Christine Kampfraath saying it was always its busiest time of year.

"It is always busy but without crunching the actual figures I would say it didn't seem significantly busier than previous years.

"A lot of the people who came to us were overseas visitors and people on holiday."

She said people presented with a mix of illness and injury.

"It's a little bit calmer now, a lot of people headed back to work on January 8 so there were less patients this week than last."

If you're not sure whether you need to see a doctor, you can ring your GP practice for advice, or contact Healthline on 0800 611 116 for free health advice 24 hours a day.

Holiday period Rotorua Hospital ED presentations:
2015/16: 1555
2016/17: 1659
2017/18: 1550