Posted by Amanda Crawford at 15/12/2015 15:59:50
People in west Kent are being asked to help the NHS over Christmas and the New Year by avoiding putting unnecessary strain on medical services.
The request comes from Dr Bob Bowes, who chairs 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. People sometimes call out of hours GP services or go to A&E for simple problems just because they haven’t thought ahead.
“We are making a plea to patients to make sure they have everything they need over the festive season so urgent services are free to help those who really need them.”
Dr Bowes’ top tips for people in west Kent are:
- If you take repeat medication which you need to stay well, please check now that you have enough to see you through the festive season. 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 ones 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 Health Help Now, the NHS website and app, 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. Many pharmacies in west Kent participate in the Pharmacy First scheme, where people who do not usually pay for NHS prescriptions can access medicines for common minor ailments, free of charge. Find a participating pharmacy by searching online for 'Health Help Now Pharmacy First'. Visit www.healthhelpnow-nhs.net or download Health Help Now from Google Play and the App Store.
Dr Bowes added:
“GP practices in west Kent will be working as usual on 24 December and will be open again from 8am on 29 December, closing only for the bank holidays on 25 and 28 December and 1 January.
“Please remember, if you need medical advice fast when it is not a 999 emergency, call NHS 111 when your GP practice is closed.
“The Accident and Emergency departments at Maidstone Hospital and Tunbridge Wells Hospital are extremely busy departments.
“Before going there – think. Is your attendance a serious or life-threatening emergency?
“If not, please use Health Help Now to find the right service elsewhere - for example your GP or a pharmacy. If you attend A&E and the nurse, after assessing you, feels your condition can be dealt with elsewhere they will advise you of this and assist you to find the appropriate place and treatment.
“The time A&E nurses and doctors take to treat you when you don’t need to be there is time taken from those most in need.”
The Dementia Helpline is open throughout the festive period, 24 hour a day, on 0800 500 3014. Hopeline (08000 684141) is open from 2pm to 5pm on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Kent Mental Healh Matters (08001 070160) is open all hours and the Samaritans are also open throughout the period on 08457 909090.
If you need urgent medical help but it is not a 999 emergency, call the free NHS 111 phone service.