Local healthcare professionals are encouraging people to help themselves and the NHS at this busy time of year by being prepared, using the most appropriate healthcare option and looking out for others.
Dr Imran Qureshi, a GP in Leiston and chairman of the clinical executive 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. Remember NHS 111 is available 24/7 by ‘phone and online 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 lonely for many people, so please make time for elderly relatives and neighbours. You might be the only person they see or talk to for some time. By giving them some time you really could boost their mental wellbeing.”
Dr Paul Driscoll, medical director of the Suffolk GP Federation, said: “When in need of medical assistance it is important to access the right service at the right time, especially over the festive season and during the winter months. Pressure on general practice can be intense so please consult a pharmacist first for advice about minor illnesses and order your prescriptions in good time, as emergency requests often take up the GP`s time unnecessarily. If you aren’t sure which service is most appropriate you can call 111 for advice. They may be able to help you or might refer you to the GP+ service if you need to see a GP. This service provides extra doctors’ appointments in the evenings, at weekends and over the festive season.”
Dr John Hague, a GP in Ipswich and mental health lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “While the festive period can be a time for celebrations, it can also be a particularly challenging time for people who experience mental health problems.
“Anyone not feeling themselves and experiencing symptoms such as lack of motivation, tearfulness, feeling worried, change in appetite or weight, lack of energy, or disturbed sleep patterns, should seek advice. Evidence suggests there are also some simple steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing, including connecting more with people around us and taking time to be active, even if it’s just going for a walk.”
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 or pharmacy and get protected
- 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 offering urgent medical 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 in Suffolk and neighbouring counties 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 offers doctors’ appointments in the evenings, at weekends and bank holidays. It operates from bases in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Wickham Market, Stowmarket, Leiston, Haverhill, Sudbury, Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds. Ask the receptionist at your own GP practice. You can book an appointment through your own GP practice during the surgery’s usual opening hours. 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 GP practices are closed on Dec 25 and 26 and Jan 1. If you have forgotten to order your regular medicine 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. You can find information on mental health support services in Suffolk HERE