NHS England is urging people in North Cumbria and the North East to see a pharmacist or make an appointment to see a GP for non-emergency health issues over Easter.
Although some GP practices are closed over the Easter bank holidays, the NHS has been working to ensure people can access a GP appointment or pharmacist should they need advice or treatment for a wide range of minor illnesses or ailments.
If people need urgent advice for something serious, but are not sure whether to go to A&E, the NHS 111 service provides advice from qualified clinicians and in some cases can even make a GP appointment direct. For most people, this will mean quicker treatment than attending an A&E department.
Dr Jonathan Slade, NHS England’s Deputy Medical Director, in Cumbria and the North East, and a practicing GP, said: “Many GPs have extended hours of opening and pharmacists across the region are open for business over the bank holidays, but please make sure you order your prescriptions early before the holiday weekend.
“We’d like to reassure people that if they call 111, they will be allocated an appointment should they need one. This is a particularly important for older people, people with long-term health conditions and for parents to know.
There has been increased, sustained pressure and unprecedented demand on the NHS following severe cold weather. There is also a spike in demand on health services during the Easter holiday.
Around 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million visits to A&E are for self-treatable conditions - such as coughs and tummy troubles - at a cost of more than £850 million each year to the NHS. This is the equivalent of more than 220,000 hip replacements or 880,000 cataract operations.
Mike Maguire, pharmacist and owner of the Marton Pharmacy, Middlesbrough, said: “Pharmacists can provide instant, confidential advice and treatment for minor illnesses, without the need to make an appointment. We are a quick and convenient first point of contact and many pharmacies have a consulting room for seeing patients in private.”
You can find your nearest pharmacy opening times at: https://beta.nhs.uk/find-a-pharmacy/
Dr Slade added: “Emergency departments get extremely busy during holiday periods and we want to ensure that people who can be cared for elsewhere are not waiting at A&E.”
“For minor illnesses, your local pharmacist is an excellent source of help and should be your first point of contact.”
NHS England is also encouraging people to make sure that their medicine cabinet and first aid kits are well stocked before the holiday period.
If you care for children, the child health app is free to download and offers a wealth of advice and support: find out more via YouTube
Search nhs.uk/staywellpharmacy for more information and to find your nearest NHS pharmacy and opening hours.