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Blog: Look after your NHS this winter

07 November 2017


Dr Sanjay Sharma, local GP and Chair of the Chiltern Vale Locality for Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, talks about keeping well this winter and the alternatives to A&E when you need medical treatment...

I have been a GP in Bedfordshire for over 15 years and have seen many changes to the local healthcare system.  Despite these developments attendances at A&E departments have increased by more than 1.3 million over the last decade. The number of calls to the ambulance service over the last decade has risen from 4.9 million to over 9 million. During September 2017, the Luton and Dunstable Hospital saw 12,248 admissions through A&E and Bedford Hospital received 6,080 admissions. These figures are continuing to rise but you can help your NHS.

Just eight less attendees at A&E could help reduce the financial strain on your NHS and will mean we can invest more into care within our community.

For most minor illnesses, usual winter bugs and minor cuts, self-care at home is the best choice, allowing A&E doctors and nurses to help those with life threatening illnesses. There are some easy ways people can prepare for winter and also help protect themselves from illness. Here are some ways of doing this:

·         Get a flu vaccination

·         Keep warm - heat your home to at least 18 degrees

·         Pick up repeat prescriptions so you have enough medicine while pharmacies/surgeries are closed

·         Make sure you have enough food and a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home

·         Take your prescribed medicines as directed

·         Stay active – moderate exercise can help keep you warm and well during winter

Using a pharmacist as a first point of contact when you’re unwell and would like to speak to a health care professional is often the best thing to do. Pharmacies are open until late and at weekends and an appointment is not needed. Pharmacists can help with minor ailments, give medical advice and help with medicines.

If you’re unable to access a pharmacist, ringing NHS111 is also a great way to get advice from a highly trained advisor supported by healthcare professionals. Your symptoms will be assessed and you’ll be immediately directed to the most suitable medical care.   It’s the number to use when you need urgent medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation.

If you would like an appointment at your GP practice, appointments are often available with fully trained Minor Illness Nurses who will be able to advise on most conditions and prescribe medication if necessary.  Another great way to get medical advice from your GP is by requesting a GP telephone consultation.

The NHS is open seven days a week, 365 days a year but it’s your responsibility to choose the right service and look after your NHS.

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