NHS plea to people to be prepared, stay safe and choose the right health services

Local NHS organisations are asking people to #DoYourBit and prepare for the upcoming Easter and May bank holiday weekends by thinking ahead when it comes to ordering repeat prescriptions and having a well-stocked medicine cabinet.

The plea comes as the region’s NHS continues to be very busy with high demand for services. At the same time the region is seeing a rise in the number of people with Covid and as a result, increases in staff absences.

Dr Neil O’Brien, executive medical director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board said: “If people are unwell then it’s vital they seek medical help if they need it, but we are asking the public to once again think carefully about which service can help them in the first instance. A&E departments and 999 are there to treat the most serious and life-threatening conditions so please think about whether your local pharmacy, GP and 111 online or telephone can help.

“One of the best things you can do is to keep some basic medicines at home, so you have them available when unexpected minor illness or injury occurs.

“I’d encourage everyone to have some medicine cabinet essentials to hand including paracetamol for you and children, plasters, indigestion remedy and anti-diarrhoeal medicine – you can ask your local pharmacist for advice on what medicines you should keep at home.

“It’s also important to have enough repeat medicine to last over the holidays -remember your GP surgery will be closed on Good Friday (April 15) and Easter Monday (April 18) and it takes 48 hours for most GP surgeries to process a repeat prescription.

“Bank holidays are always a busy time for the NHS and this Easter with a continued rise in Covid cases in the community it’s significantly impacting on staff sickness across ambulance, hospital and general practice staff.

“Thanks to the vaccine programme, the numbers admitted to our hospitals’ intensive care units with Covid-19 remains low and stable. That said we still face challenges of reduced space in some hospital treatment areas and GP surgeries as we continue to follow strict infection control measures to ensure patients and staff are safe.” 

Dr O’Brien also urged people to enjoy the holidays safely to avoid any unnecessary visits to A&E. 

“Whether you’ll be working in the garden, doing some DIY or taking part in outdoor activities we want you to do it safely and this also includes taking care when drinking alcohol.

“During the bank holidays we often see increased pressure on A&E and emergency services with illness, injury, accidents and violence related incidents due to people drinking too much – sadly, we also see violence and aggression to our staff which will not be tolerated.

“While we understand people want to have fun, we know you don’t want to spend valuable holiday time in an A&E department or hospital because you’ve over done it, so please reduce your drinking.”

“The NHS is here if you need us over the bank holiday, but if your condition is not life threatening do think about alternative services as your local pharmacy or NHS 111 online.”

Alternatives include thinking pharmacy first.

Pete Horrocks, Superintendent Pharmacist, Knights Pharmacy in Bishop Auckland said: “Pharmacists are experts in medicines who can help you and your family with minor and common health concerns.

“As qualified healthcare professionals, we are clinically trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice, as well as offering over-the-counter medicines for a range of common illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.

“Most community pharmacies are open until late and at weekends and there’s no need to book an appointment to see us. Many pharmacies also have private consultation areas where you can discuss any healthcare issues confidentially,”

Top tips for the bank holiday include:

Be prepared for common health problems by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home and making sure that you have enough prescription medication to last over the bank holiday weekend.

If you are visiting any of our healthcare settings, please remember to wear a face covering, use our handwashing and alcohol gel facilities.

Health advice and information is also available via the NHS App or the NHS website ,or from your local GP practice website which links to a range of online services and, in most cases, you can order repeat prescriptions online.  

If you require emergency care, you should call 999, or go to your nearest A&E. You should only go to A&E if you or someone else has a life-threatening emergency, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • severe allergic reactions
  • severe burns or scalds
  • stroke
  • major trauma such as a road traffic accident

Please keep your hospital, clinic or GP appointment. If you can’t make it, do let us know so we can offer that appointment to others.