As people across the region prepare for the Christmas holidays, health and care teams are urging everyone to enjoy the season's celebrations safely.
With all health and care services across the North East and North Cumbria expecting another extremely busy time over the festive period, people are once again being encouraged to stay safe during the holidays.
Dr Neil O’Brien, GP and executive medical director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: “While we want everyone to enjoy the Christmas festivities over the new few weeks we ask that you take some simple steps to make sure you do this safely.
“Sometimes unfortunate accidents can occur and a night of celebration can turn into a night at a local emergency department.
“If you are unwell then it is vital that you seek medical help if you need it, but please think carefully about which service you choose. Emergency departments and 999 are only there to treat the most serious and life-threatening conditions so please think about whether your local pharmacy or NHS 111 online can help.
“We want everyone to have a good time, but please stay safe, enjoy the celebrations and remember to limit your drinking – you don’t want to spend your valuable Christmas holidays in hospital or feeling dreadful because you’ve over done it”.
Emergency teams facing huge pressures
Sean Fenwick, chair of the regional urgent and emergency care network, echoed Dr O’Brien’s comments.
“All our emergency department teams are facing huge pressures at the moment, and we know that will only increase as we head into the Christmas period,” he said.
“Our main priority is to treat people with the most serious, life-threatening conditions and it’s likely if you are not one of those, you will face a lengthy wait to be seen.
“Health and care staff across the region work tirelessly under unrelenting conditions and our emergency departments are here to help, but they are only there for those most in need – please think about whether it’s the right place for you before you head through our doors and that will help to make a real difference in supporting us through this busy period.”
Look out for others
Amy Oxley, deputy chief nurse (operations) at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said it was important to look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives.
“Remember that other people, such as older neighbours, friends and family members, may need some extra help over the winter. Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery and cold weather can stop people from going out.
“If they do need to go out in the cold, encourage them to wear shoes with a good grip and a scarf around the mouth to protect them from cold air, and to reduce their risk of chest infections.
“If they need help over the holiday period when the GP surgery or pharmacy is closed or they’re not sure what to do, go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.”
Stephen Segasby, chief operating officer for the North East Ambulance Service, also urged people to use emergency services wisely this Christmas.
“The Christmas and New Year period is notoriously one of the busiest times of year for the ambulance service,” he said.
“We expect it could be even busier this winter as we now see these levels of demand throughout the year.
“We hope that people don’t need us over the festive period and it’s really important that the public use our services wisely. We urge everyone to ask themselves if it is a life-threatening emergency before calling 999 – it may be better to go to 111 online or use the NHS app."
With many gearing up for Christmas parties, and gatherings with family and friends, Susan Taylor, head of alcohol policy, Balance, urged people to be sensitive to the fact that alcohol may not be at the centre of everyone’s celebration.
“We might not know when people want to cut down or stop drinking for health, religious, cultural or financial reasons – or simply because they don’t want a drink.
“For some people being surrounded by alcohol or feeling pressured into drinking at Christmas can feel uncomfortable. The festive period is a wonderful time to celebrate but we would encourage everyone to enjoy this in an inclusive and sensitive way.”
Order repeat prescriptions early
People are also being reminded not to get caught out over the Christmas holidays by ordering any urgent repeat prescriptions well in advance and ensuring they have a well-stocked medicine cabinet.
Ewan Maule, director of medicines and pharmacy for the North East and North Cumbria ICB said:
“If you do need emergency medication you can go to any local community pharmacy, open over the holidays, https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/pharmacy/find-a-pharmacy or contact NHS 111 online who will be able to assist.
“Community pharmacies can also provide you with advice and treatment for lots of minor conditions, including urinary tract infections.”
Stock up your medicine cabinet
“One of the best things you can do is to keep some basic medicines at home, so you have them available if any unexpected minor illness or injury occurs.
“I’d urge everyone to have some essentials to hand including paracetamol for adults and children, plasters, indigestion remedy and anti-diarrhoeal medicine – but you can also ask your local pharmacist for more advice on what medicines you should keep at home.
"Please enjoy the season safely and I wish you all a very happy Christmas!"
Top tips for the Christmas holidays
- 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 holiday period.
- Community pharmacists are excellent at giving a lot of advice about self-care and medications they can offer you to treat your condition at home.
- Health advice and information is 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.
- For children’s health advice you can download The Little Orange Book, which covers a wide range of illnesses in children from common minor ailments including teething, constipation and colds, through to more serious conditions download here.
- If you do suffer a minor injury or illness, NHS 111 online and on the phone is a great place to see advice and can help you reach the right place for your care.
- If you require emergency care, you should call 999, or go to your nearest emergency department. You should ONLY go to an emergency department 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
- major trauma such as a road traffic accident
- If you are concerned about how much you, or someone you know, drinks, there’s lots of help out there. You can speak to your GP, find your local alcohol support service or contact:
- Drinkline Freephone: 0300 123 1110
- Alcoholics Anonymous: 0845 769 7555