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Festive season: healthcare options close to home

As the festive fun gets into full swing, health officials have launched a new campaign to remind people of the range of healthcare options available close to their homes.


Christmas isn’t just the season to be jolly. It also tends to be the season of slips, trips and falls, coughs, colds and sore throats, and a whole host of other injuries and ailments.


People who suffer these sort of minor injuries and illnesses are being urged to think twice before turning up at the hospital’s Emergency Department where they could face long waits for issues that could be dealt with much closer to home and more quickly too.


Pharmacists: There’s a highly qualified pharmacist at most chemists and they can provide advice on a wide range of things from diarrhoea, head ache, sore throat, painful cough, minor illness, upset stomach and skin conditions. They can advise on the best over-the-counter medicines and also offer general health and wellbeing support to help people keep warm and well over winter and prevent minor ailments becoming more serious.

This link shows chemist opening times over Christmas and New Year. https://www.berkshirewestccg.nhs.uk/pharmacy


NHS 111: NHS 111 is a free telephone service which is staffed 24/7 by highly trained people who can advise on health and medical issues. They can offer help so people can manage their symptoms at home, if appropriate, or can point people in the direction of the most appropriate medical care which could be their GP or hospital.


GP surgery: All doctor’s surgeries across the Berkshire West patch now offer an extended hours service which means patients can make appointments for evenings, weekends and public holidays.

And local people who are not registered as an NHS patient with a GP are being urged to do so. Registration forms are available at local surgeries or can be downloaded from www.nhs.uk

Once you’ve registered, the GP surgery will be responsible for your on going medical care. Local surgeries are now grouped together in their communities to form Primary Care Networks and these offer a much wider range of care close to the communities they serve.  Many have a pharmacist, physiotherapist, paramedic, Physician Associate or Social Prescriber in their teams who are all highly trained and can provide a range of health, wellbeing and social care support.


Walk in Centre, Reading, Minor Injuries Unit in the West Berkshire Hospital in Thatcham, Urgent Care Centre, Bracknell: People don’t need appointments to attend these centres and they may be easier for patients to get to for help with minor ailments like stomach bugs, painful coughs and skin complaints.


Self care : Minor ailments can often be treated quickly and easily at home, and, with a bit of forward planning, dealt with before they become more serious. People on repeat prescriptions should remember to order them before the Christmas and New Year holiday. Stocking up on cold and flu remedies is also important, as is keeping warm and hydrated and taking extra care on slippery pavements and roads. And there’s still time to have a flu jab, either at the GP surgery for those people who are in the ‘at risk’ groups, or at a local chemist.


Mental health help:Christmas and New Year can be extra hard for people struggling with mental health problems or feel lonely, isolated or anxious. The cold, dark days of winter can also exacerbate the problem. The NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign offers some suggestions that could help people to lift their mood and make some simple changes to their lives.


Will Orr, Consultant Cardiologist and Care Group Director for Urgent Care at the RBH, said: “We want everyone to enjoy the festive season, and with some simple steps, people can do a lot to help themselves stay healthy and well and ease the pressure facing our hospital teams - not just over Christmas but throughout the rest of the winter too.

“If they do need medical assistance they don’t always need to come to the hospital for help which is why we’re making everyone aware of all the other options open to them. Sometimes it’s just a quick visit to the chemist to talk to a pharmacist, other times it may mean a visit to the GP or a call to 111. Whatever option people use, they are assured of expert care and advice.”

A special ‘winter website’ has been added to the Royal Berkshire Hospital site and also the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group site. This gives extra information about keeping well over the winter along with some self-help video clips from local clinicians. These will also be available on the hospital’s Facebook page over winter.

www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk and www.berkshirewestccg.nhs.uk and www.berkshirewesticp.org



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