Visit a pharmacist instead of A&E, health chiefs urge patients as Christmas surge arrives

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Library picture

Visit your GP or nearest pharmacist instead of A&E over Christmas and New Year.

That's the message from NHS England as hospitals brace themselves for a surge in demand over the festive season.

With some GP practices closing over Christmas as well as the conditions meaning accidents and emergencies are much more likely, A&E traditionally becomes swamped by demand.

To help ease the pressure, people are being asked to call 111 to make a GP appointment or to visit their pharmacy - where, in most cases, they will receive the advice and care they need much more quickly.

Although some GP practices are closed over Christmas and New Year bank holidays, the NHS says it has been working to ensure people across the region will still be able to access a GP appointment or pharmacist should they need one.

Jonathan Slade, medical director for NHS England Cumbria and the North East, said: “The main message we want to get across is that a number of GPs and pharmacists across the region are open for business over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

"We’d like to reassure people that if they call 111, they will be allocated an appointment should they need one. This is a particularly important message for older people, people with long-term health conditions and parents.

“Pharmacists can provide instant, confidential advice and treatment for minor illnesses, without the need to make an appointment.

“Our A&E departments get extremely busy during this time and we want to ensure that patients who really need emergency care receive the quickest possible treatment they need, and that people who can be cared for elsewhere are not waiting in accident and emergency departments.”

Advice for parents is available on the free NHS child health app. The app has been developed by doctors, health visitors and pharmacists and can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

NHS England is also encouraging people to make sure that their medicine cabinet and first aid kits are well stocked before the festive period and that repeat prescriptions are collected well before Christmas and New Year.
Many urgent care and walk-in centres will also be open. To find out which services are open and at what times, call 111.

For local pharmacy opening hours, during the Christmas and New Year period, people should visit www.urgentoremergency.co.uk.

People can access information about walk-in centres, urgent care centres or minor injuries units by logging onto The NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk. They can type in their postcode on the website to find their nearest services.