Doctors in Devon are calling on people to take preventative measures ahead of the bank holiday and after.
The long weekend always puts extra pressure on health services, with visitors to Devon increasing the number of people here at a time when GP practices are closed.
For those who do succumb to a virus, minor conditions such as headaches, colds and back pain can be treated effectively by a pharmacist, who can offer a range of solutions and advice without the need to consult a GP.
Another service for patients this bank holiday is the NHS 111 free helpline, which can connect callers to a nurse, emergency dentist or even a GP, and can arrange face-to-face appointments if they think one is needed.
Dr Shelagh McCormick, a Devon GP, said: “By using self-care where appropriate, people are helping to free up the health system, which in turn helps patients who genuinely need to see a doctor or nurse to get medical attention in good time.
“Pharmacists can help provide you with advice and over-the-counter medicines that will help relieve your symptoms.
“They are highly qualified to give advice on a range of common health problems and the best medicines to treat them, as well as prescribing from a range of medications.
“A&E departments are not an alternative to a GP appointment, so patients should only attend A&E if they have a genuine life-threatening emergency.”
Research shows that healthy people cope better with a wide range of ailments, so self-care is a way of helping yourself – by eating sensibly, losing weight, drinking less alcohol and stopping smoking.
Dr McCormick added: “Obviously, at any time of year it’s very important to stay as healthy as we can, especially for people with a long-term condition, but the aim is to start a lifestyle pattern now that can help us stay healthy for our whole life.
“Over the bank holiday period, some of us overindulge and then tell ourselves we will make amends later in the year, but the self-care message is about enjoying yourself while bearing in mind that moderation is good for you today and in the future.
“For people with a long-term condition, self-care is key to understanding their condition and knowing how best to live with it throughout the year.”
Below is a list of healthcare options this bank holiday:
- NHS 111: the telephone helpline is open 24 hours a day and is staffed by trained individuals who will advise and guide you to the right service.
- Minor Injuries Units (MIUs) are an alternative to attending accident and emergency when an injury is not considered life-threatening but still requires urgent treatment, without the need for an appointment. They are run by nurse practitioners who can treat injuries like cuts, small burns or scalds, bites and stings, sprains and certain fractures, minor head injuries and foreign bodies in eyes.Find your nearest MIU and its opening times here: http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Minor%20injuries%20unit/LocationSearch/551
- Pharmacists can offer quick, early advice to patients who feel unwell and they can now provide some medicines usually only available on prescription. Many have private consulting rooms too. Find your nearest pharmacy and check bank holiday opening times here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/info-professional/pharm-info/sw-pharm/pharmacy-opening-hours/
- Regular medication: ensure you have enough to cover the long weekend and request repeat prescriptions well in advance if necessary.
- Medicine cabinet: stock up with over-the-counter remedies for ailments such as headaches, stomach upsets, cuts, grazes and stings and indigestion, including remedies for children.
- HANDi Paediatric app: if you have children, download the app for guidance on how to treat them, available here: https://www.newdevonccg.nhs.uk/information-for-patients/handi-paediatric-app-101832
- NHS Choices: for advice on symptoms, treatments and where to get help look here: http://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx