Residents are being reminded to use the right medical facilities this Christmas and New Year.
Health bosses at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust are urging people to use the most appropriate service for the severity of their symptoms and to keep emergency services at the new Northumbria hospital free for those who are most seriously ill.
Residents are being reminded to use 24/7 urgent care centres at North Tyneside General Hospital for problems which are urgent but not life threatening.
Walk-in patients will be seen promptly and without having to wait behind serious, emergency cases.
Northumbria Healthcare is also reiterating that GPs should remain people’s first port of call for most medical problems over the holidays with practices only closed on public holidays and reminding people that help and advice is also readily available from local pharmacies.
The reminder is part of the trust’s public awareness campaign, which launched at the start of December and continues over the festive season, aimed to ensure people understand where they should go for help and support from their local NHS.
Dr Jane Weatherstone, associate medical director primary and community care at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Your GP can treat the majority of you and your family’s healthcare needs and over the holidays, your GP practice should remain the first point of contact for most medical problems.
“GP practices are only closed on public holidays and many GPs can offer advice over the phone. If you are unsure of which service you need, then NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, every day and will advise you where to go.
“Our urgent care centres at Wansbeck, Hexham and North Tyneside will be open 24/7 throughout the festive period and I would remind people to use these services for urgent problems which are not life threatening.
“You will be seen much more quickly as you will not have to wait behind patients who are seriously ill.”
As part of its public awareness campaign, Northumbria Healthcare is also supporting the national NHS initiative ‘Stay Well This Winter’ which encourages the public to look after themselves well:
• 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.
Dr Weatherstone added: “At this time of the year there are always more people needing help from the NHS and it is really important that people are aware of which services are available and where to go in which situation.
“By looking after yourself well and using NHS services appropriately, you can help us keep emergency services free for those who really need them this Christmas.
“For the majority of normally fit and healthy people, unpleasant ailments such as diarrhoea and vomiting, colds and flu can be effectively treated by practising good self-care and treated at home with rest, plenty of fluids and some over-the-counter medication.
“Please do not 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.”
For further information about how you and your family can stay well this winter visit www.nhs.uk/staywell