Know where to go for health services over the festive holidays

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With the festive season almost upon us, NHS Tayside’s winter health guru Smarty the Penguin is urging members of the public to make sure they know where to get the right treatment at the right time.

At peak times and especially over holiday periods, our Emergency Departments in Ninewells and Perth Royal Infirmary can be very busy. When it’s icy we see a sharp increase in the number of people attending with slip injuries such as broken bones. Illnesses such as flu and norovirus are also more prevalent during the winter months but they can usually be managed at home without the need to see a doctor.

Smarty says, “We need to make sure that we are able to see people quickly if they need emergency care. Remember, GP surgeries are only closed for two days at Christmas and two days at New Year: 25 and 26 December and 1 and 2 January. However, if you can’t wait until they reopen there are several options for getting the help you need.

“Please only go to A&E with emergency conditions. When GPs are closed you should contact NHS 24 on 111 in the first instance to make sure you know where to get the right treatment, at the right place at the right time. There’s more information on my website www.keepwellinwinter including festive opening times for local pharmacies.”

Consultant in Emergency Medicine Dr Michael Johnston added, “Members of the public have always recognised that our Emergency Departments are for those with genuine emergencies, however, they are not always aware of what alternatives are out there, especially when their own GP is closed. There are many alternatives to A&E and going directly to the person with the most appropriate skills is important.

“Around one in four people who visit A&E could receive treatment more appropriately by accessing a different service, such their own GP, community pharmacist or local Minor Injury and Illness Unit. This can help you to a quicker recovery and ensures that all NHS Tayside services are run efficiently over the festive period and through the winter months.”

Here is some helpful advice to ensure you access the right treatment in the right place, at the right time:

* When your GP surgery is closed, and you’re too ill to wait until it re-opens, you can access appropriate out-of-hours services (including a nurse or GP) through NHS 24 by calling 111

* Your local Primary Care out-of-hours service, which includes GPs, works with NHS 24 to make sure that urgent medical advice and care is always available to you

* If you live in a rural area and have a minor illness such as an earache or a cut, minor burn or sprain, turn to your Minor Injury/Illness Unit or NHS 24

* Your local pharmacist can provide a whole range of services including free advice, support and guidance on all your health problems. Community pharmacies are open at convenient times on Saturdays and Sundays in many locations

* Avoid a crisis, be prepared and buy essentials now. A pharmacist can advise you on a well stocked medicine cabinet

* Find about your local health services and get health advice online at www.nhsinform.co.uk

Follow Smarty’s advice and walk like a penguin to avoid a fall when it’s icy: bend your knees and point your feet out slightly, extend your arms to your sides and walk flat footed, taking short slow steps. You can get more information and advice on Smarty’s website http://www.keepwellinwinter.scot.nhs.uk/, at www.facebook.com/NHSTayside or @NHSTayside on Twitter and Instagram.

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