COLUMN: Which NHS service to use and when this winter

On behalf of Mansfield and Ashfield Clinical Commissioning Group, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful NHS employees across our area, many of whom didn't get the opportunity to spend Christmas or New Year with their families. Your hard work and dedication is appreciated and valued by us all.

Winter can be seriously bad for our health so it’s even more important than usual to ensure you use the right NHS service to help ensure that NHS resources are used as wisely as possible.

Here are some top tips...

Think pharmacy first

If you start to feel unwell, don’t wait until it gets worse. Speak to your pharmacist for advice and to get medication to treat your symptoms right away, especially if you have COPD, asthma or another long-term condition. For colds, flu and winter vomiting bug (norovirus) you should treat these illnesses at home using over the counter medication available from your local chemist in the first instance.

Make use of your GP practice

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Your practice staff, including the GP, practice nurses and clinical prescribing pharmacists are there to help treat a variety of illnesses. Make an appointment with your practice for persistent illnesses, such as ear ache, back ache and other conditions that aren’t getting better. GP appointments are now also available in the evenings and on Saturday mornings, making it even more convenient to pop into your practice. I’d also encourage people to speak to their GP practice about signing up for online services so they can book appointments and order repeat prescriptions at the click of a button.

Make the right call – NHS 111 is there to help

It may seem like an obvious thing to say, however ambulance teams are still regularly called out to many non-emergencies. Lots of people also think they get priority treatment in hospital if they arrive by ambulance, when in actual fact they don’t. All patients are assessed and the most serious will be seen first. Ask yourself, is it immediately life threatening? If it is, call 999. If on the other hand, you need advice for your illness or injury, call NHS 111.

Emergency departments are for real emergencies

The emergency department is for emergencies and life-threatening conditions only. Again, if it’s not a medical emergency, but you need help fast, we advise calling the NHS 111 service who will be able to give medical advice over the phone. People with flu-like symptoms and vomiting/diarrhoea should also stay away from hospital to prevent the spread of infection.

New year, new you

It’s traditional at this time of year to think about making changes for the better and what better area to focus on than our health and wellbeing. 
The key to sticking to your resolutions is to make realistic ones; set achievable goals and don’t let minor setbacks put you off trying again. Personally, I’ll be adding more exercise into my routine to make sure I’m in the best condition possible for climbing Ben Nevis next year. The NHS website can help with whatever you decide to do - best of luck!

Let’s hope 2018 is a happy and healthy year for us all.