Get set for Christmas – vital information about NHS services

The NHS in south Essex is encouraging people to use the region’s NHS services wisely this Christmas.

In the lead-up to Christmas and the New Year, hospital accident and emergency (A&E) services historically experience a surge of patients. Unfortunately, some people attend A&E when they could be treated more appropriately elsewhere in the community.

The NHS South Essex cluster is urging people to use their common sense and only call 999 for a true emergency need. The NHS has resources in place to maintain high levels of service and response, and continues to provide the best care possible to patients, but maintaining these levels of service relies heavily on the public’s good sense to ‘Choose Well’ and use the 999 service wisely.

Residents can take some simple steps to ensure their health needs are met this Christmas:

*Get to know what services are available so you can choose the appropriate health services if you become ill or suffer an injury. Remember NHS Direct has qualified nurses on hand if you need advice and NHS Choices has a symptom checker online (0845 4647, www.nhs.uk).

*Don’t forget to order your repeat prescriptions as your GP surgery will be closed on some days over the Christmas and New Year period. Fill in your repeat prescriptions form well in advance and call your GP or pharmacist for more information.

*Stock up on over-the-counter cough, cold and flu remedies at your local pharmacy. If you suffer from a cold, cough or flu, stay at home, keep warm and take plenty of non-alcoholic drinks.

*Take-up the offer of the free flu jab at your local GP surgery. If you are in an ‘at risk’ group you will be invited to have the jab.

Ian Stidston, Director of Primary Care for the NHS South Essex cluster, says: “This year there will be four consecutive days over the Christmas weekend and three consecutive days over the New Year weekend when GP surgeries will be closed.

“People will of course be able to get urgent treatment from GPs out of hours, as on a typical weekend. They should just call their GP surgery as usual and they will be directed to the out of hours service.

“Likewise, patients needing urgent dental advice or treatment which cannot wait until the next working day are advised to contact their dental surgery and they will be redirected to the dental Out of Hours service.

“However, we want to avoid undue pressure being put on local A&E departments, out of hours providers and the ambulance service so please only use these services if you really need to – your pharmacist can help with colds, coughs and flu and NHS Direct has qualified nurses available to give you advice.”

Remember that Thurrock Health Centre and St Luke’s Health Centre in Southend are open 8am to 8pm 365 days a year for walk-in appointments and you do not have to be registered. You can see a GP or nurse if you have a minor injury or illness. Thurrock Health Centre, 55 – 57 High Street, Grays, RM17 6NP, 01375 898700. St Luke’s Health Centre, located behind Cumberlege Intermediate Care Centre, Pantile Avenue, Southend on Sea, SS2 4BD, 01702 611505.

The Orsett Minor Injuries Unit is also available if you have a minor injury or illness such as a scald or sprain that doesn’t require an A&E visit. Orsett MIU, Orsett Hospital, Rowley Road, Orsett, Grays, RM16 3EU. Open 10am to 7.30pm, seven days a week. Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. 01268 592300.

For pharmacy opening times and details of blood test clinics over the Christmas and New Year period visit: www.swessex.nhs.uk

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