Don’t let the fun and frivolity of the festive season play havoc with your mental and physical wellbeing.
That’s the message from local GPs who are encouraging people to help themselves – and the NHS – by using the most appropriate healthcare option at this very busy time of year.
Dr Mark Shenton, a GP in Stowmarket and chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “There are some quick and simple actions you can take which represent the foundations of good winter health care. If you are in an at-risk group make sure you have a flu vaccination. Keep a supply of basic medicines at home so you can deal with minor illness and injury more easily. It shouldn’t cost more than a few pounds to buy the essentials. Remember NHS 111 is available 24/7 and that many pharmacies are open evenings and weekends.”
Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This time of year can be busy and stressful for many of us, and the festive season can result in many people feeling isolated and alone. The Wellbeing Service offers a range of support services that could help you if you feel depressed or low and you can refer yourself with no need to see your GP.”
Simon Hallion, Director of Operations at Ipswich Hospital, said: “We are asking local people to help the NHS by only coming to the Emergency Department when they have a real emergency.
“Teams in every corner of the hospital are working very hard to make sure we provide patients with safe, high-quality care and we want our emergency clinicians to be able to focus on the patients who really need their life-saving expertise.”
Helen Beck, chief operating officer at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Like all health and social care systems, we are pulling out all the stops to prepare for winter to ensure we protect the good standards of service that the public have come to expect.
“Together with our fellow NHS trusts, our commissioners, and local councils, we’re asking people to stake simple steps to help us this winter by accessing the right NHS services, at the right time, for their needs.
“For non-urgent healthcare issues local pharmacies are also a great first point of call. Many are open long hours including evenings and weekends and can help deal with conditions like colds, diarrhoea, sprains and strains, or small cuts and bruises. The new NHS 111 Online service offers good help and advice, on top of the free 111 phone service which is available 24/7. Dialling 111 can also link you to an urgent out-of-hours GP appointment.”
Help to keep yourself mentally and physically well:
• Flu vaccination – It’s not too late to protect yourself. People aged 65 and over, those living with a long-term health condition, pregnant women, main carers and some young children are entitled to a free flu vaccination. If you have an underlying health condition you are more susceptible to flu and if you catch it you are more likely to end up in hospital. Contact your GP practice and get protected. Some pharmacies also offer free NHS flu vaccinations to those who are in an at-risk group and aged 18+
• Be prepared – Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet means you will be able to self-care at home and deal with minor injury and illness that you or your family might suffer. Consider having a stock of paracetamol, anti-diarrhoeal medicine, rehydration mixture, indigestion remedy and plasters. Ask your pharmacist for advice
• NHS 111 by telephone and online– This is a free telephone service which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. Trained advisors can offer urgent help and advice. You can also access the NHS 111 Online service anytime HERE and by answering some questions your symptoms will be assessed and you’ll be given the recommended action to take
• Think Pharmacist – Many pharmacies have late night and weekend opening. A pharmacist can offer you a great deal of help and advice on the best over-the-counter medication for your condition. Keep a note of the opening hours of your nearest pharmacy and remember some pharmacies will be open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. See list of pharmacies and opening times HERE
• Don’t wait -If you have a long term pain e.g. back ache – don’t wait until it’s late at night or a public holiday until you do something about it. Make an appointment with your GP practice – GP practices will be open their usual hours apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day
• GP+ service – The Suffolk GP+ service operates in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Wickham Market, Stowmarket, Leiston and Bury St Edmunds.You can book an appointment with a GP or nurse practitioner in advance and you can do this through your GP practice and NHS 111. The service will be operating in some locations on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day
• Repeat prescription – Remember to make sure you have enough repeat medication to last over the holidays. It normally takes at least 48 hours for your GP practice to process a repeat prescription and bear in mind when GP practices are closed. If you have forgotten to order your regular medicine from your GP and run out your pharmacist may be able to help by providing an emergency supply. Please remember to take your repeat slip or empty pack(s) with you to show the pharmacist what you usually take
• Need a dentist – If you need to see an emergency dentist call NHS 111
• You are not alone – If you need someone to talk to you can call the Samaritans anytime on 116 123. Calls are free and the number will not appear on your telephone bill. If you are feeling low, stressed or depressed you can refer yourself to the Wellbeing Suffolk service for support – call them on 0300 123 1503. The website also offers a range of self-help resources HERE