Residents are being encouraged to look after themselves and know which NHS services to use as winter approaches.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is backing the national Stay Well This Winter campaign, which offers the public advice and tips on how to prepare against the cold weather and stay well over the colder months.
The campaign is particularly aimed at those with long-term conditions and those over 65, but everyone is asked to use health services wisely to ensure they receive the appropriate care in the right place, at the right time.
Northumbria Healthcare is also reminding members of the public which hospital services to use following the changes in emergency care which took place over the summer in Northumberland and North Tyneside.
All serious emergencies are now treated at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.
The trust is reminding residents that if they are seriously ill or injured – such as experiencing loss of consciousness, severe abdominal pain or sudden shortness of breath – they should go straight to the new Northumbria hospital or ring 999.
Those who have less serious problems are equally being reminded to use the 24 hour urgent care centres at Hexham, North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals where expert advice is available round the clock for walk-in patients.
Dr Chris Biggin, clinical director of emergency care at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We always see more people needing help from the NHS during winter and it is really important that people know where to go.
“Our new Northumbria hospital is for seriously ill patients, most of whom arrive by emergency ambulance or by urgent GP referral.
“It is really important that those with less serious problems use our 24 walk-in centres at Hexham, North Tyneside and Wansbeck where we can see and treat a whole range of less serious problems very quickly and without people having to wait behind those who are much more poorly.”
Northumbria Healthcare is also reminding people of the wide range of other NHS services available without the need to access hospital care.
Dr Biggin added: “If the problem is not urgent, for example if the problem has gone on for a few days, then your GP practice should always be your first point of contact, or if you are unsure of which service you need, then the NHS 111 service is available 24/7 for telephone advice.
“It is important to remember that common winter illnesses are treated most effectively by practising good self-care or with advice from a local community pharmacist. Things like diarrhoea and vomiting, colds and flu are all unpleasant but for the majority of normally fit and healthy people, these illnesses can be treated at home with rest, plenty of fluids and some over the counter medication from your pharmacist.
“Please don’t attend hospital if you are experiencing symptoms of these common winter viruses as you will only spread germs amongst other more vulnerable and seriously ill patients.”
The NHS ‘Stay Well This Winter’ campaign urges the public to:
• Make sure you get your flu jab if eligible.
• Keep yourself warm – heat your home to least 18 degrees C (or 65F) if you can.
• If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, then get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious.
• Make sure you get your prescription medicines before pharmacies close on Christmas Eve.
• Always take your prescribed medicines as directed.
• Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over winter.
For further information about how you and your family can stay well this winter, visit www.nhs.org.uk/staywell