Posted by Amanda Crawford at 19/12/2017 10:46:38
People in west Kent are being asked to help the NHS over Christmas and the New Year by planning ahead now to avoid unnecessary crises for them – and potential strain on medical services.
The request comes from Dr Bob Bowes, a GP from Tunbridge Wells and clinical Chair of NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which plans and pays for the area’s health services.
Dr Bowes said: “The NHS is very busy in the lead-up to Christmas and between Christmas and the New Year. Planning ahead can mean that people can avoid having to call out of hours GP services or visit A&E for simple problems, such as running out of medication. This will reduce the demand on urgent services and enable them to help those who really need it.
“We are therefore asking patients that take repeat medication to make sure they will have enough to last the festive period. There are also a few steps that people can follow to stay in good health this Christmas.”
Dr Bowes’ top tips are:
• If you take repeat medication which you need to stay well, please check now that you have enough to see you through – many GP practices will be closed from Saturday 23 December and reopen on Wednesday 27 December. If not, re-order it from your GP practice as soon as possible.
• While you are getting ready for Christmas, stock up on over the counter medicine for colds and flu for all members of the family, so you’re ready if anyone falls ill. It’s a good idea to have an accurate thermometer too, particularly for children. Avoid forehead ones – look for those that you use under the arm or in the ear.
• Antibiotics are rarely necessary for sore throats or coughs and it is vitally important that they are used only when absolutely necessary. They will have no effect on a viral illness but may give you side effects. If you have a pre-existing condition and think you may have an infection, ring 111 for advice.
• Coughs and colds are very common at this time of year. If you become unwell, stay at home, drink plenty of fluids and use the over the counter remedies you’ve bought. See your GP if a cough lasts for more than three weeks or if it is progressively getting worse.
• Diarrhoea and vomiting bugs are also common. Keep well hydrated by sipping fluids, and stay at home. If you are on tablets for blood pressure or take diuretics ("water tablets"), phone your pharmacy or GP, if symptoms last more than 24 hours as you may need to stop them temporarily.
• Try not to spread illness. Use tissues for coughs and sneezes and dispose of them in a bin. If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, stay at home for 48 hours after you last have symptoms to avoid giving it to anyone else.
• Local pharmacies are open over Christmas. Use the NHS Choices website to find the opening times of pharmacies and other services over the festive season and for year-round advice on common symptoms including information about local services. Additionally, many pharmacies in West Kent are part of the Common Ailments scheme, which offers expert advice and free medications for certain illnesses to people who don’t usually pay for their prescriptions. For more information, look out for the Common Ailments Scheme posters.
• Use a Minor Injury Unit if you have a sprain, strain, minor head injury, burn or scald. More details available on www.nhs.net.
Dr Bowes added: “Please remember, if you need medical advice and it is not a 999 emergency, call NHS 111 when your GP practice is closed.
“Accident and Emergency departments are extremely busy. Before going there – think. Is your attendance for an accident or an emergency?
“If not, please use NHS 111 or the NHS Choices website to find the right service elsewhere - for example your GP, a pharmacy or a Minor Injury Unit (MIU). The time A&E nurses and doctors take to treat you when you are neither an accident nor an emergency is time taken from those most in need.”
The Dementia Helpline is open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Kent Mental Health Matters support line (08001 070160) is open all hours.
Samaritans provides confidential support for anyone feeling down, depressed or anxious, as well as those who may be feeling despair. Volunteers can be contacted 24/7 on 116 123 (UK), or email email@example.com or face-to-face; visit www.samaritans.org for details of your local branch. If you need urgent medical help but it is not a 999 emergency, call the free NHS 111 phone service.