Winter always puts the National Health Service (NHS) under particular strain. The colder weather can be an issue for older people, more family gatherings over Christmas and New Year means flu has a greater chance to spread and norovirus is more prevalent. To ease the pressure, the NHS has launched a campaign called Help Us Help You.
There is a straightforward aim of the campaign: To encourage people to source appropriate healthcare services. For example you can ask a pharmacist for advice on minor ailments and illnesses to help prevent them from getting worse; contact NHS 111 if you think you need medical attention urgently but it’s not life-threatening; or access evening and weekend appointments with GPs, nurses or other healthcare professionals.
From a personal perspective, the timing of this campaign is spot on. Between Christmas and New Year, an old medical condition of mine flared up. It’s a minor one, but it was making it difficult for me to eat.
My local pharmacist noted the treatment I was prescribed and took me to one side. She wanted to check I knew how to use the medication and was keen to ensure I received the best treatment so it cleared up quickly. I was very impressed both at her concern for me but also her knowledge of the condition I had (an obscure one!).
My own ailments aside, the NHS has given me the following five tips. They were produced by a chap called Abraham who is a community pharmacist. They’re very simple tips and they outline how you can help pharmacists and the NHS so you get the best treatment possible.
Help Us Help You: Tips from Abraham the community pharmacist
- For self-treatable conditions like coughs, colds and sore throats, if your symptoms don’t ease after a couple of days, come to see us for some extra help and advice.
- Norovirus, also called the ‘winter vomiting bug,’ is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms. Don’t return to work or send children to school until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared. Avoid visiting elderly or poorly relatives, particularly if they are in hospital. Also, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water. Alcohol hand gels don’t kill norovirus.
- Ask us about the flu vaccination. It’s free from the pharmacy if you are pregnant, aged 65 years or over, or have an underlying medical condition. Further details on eligibility are available online.
- Make the most of our consultation rooms. There’s no need to worry about a health concern by yourself, just pop in and have a quick chat without the need to make an appointment in advance.
- Many pharmacies are open outside of traditional working hours. It’s helpful to keep a note of your nearest two or three pharmacies, including those that stay open late or are open on Sundays. You can search for local pharmacies on the NHS website.
There is one further bit of advice and that’s to be a good neighbour. If you have any older neighbours, do check on them to see they are okay during the colder weather.
You can also find more information on social media by following the hashtag #HelpUsHelpYou. And of course, you should also use your common sense.
If someone is experiencing is a genuine medical emergency, either call an ambulance or get to hospital as soon as you can. Use your judgement but keep in mind that a trip to hospital or to your doctor’s surgery may not be the best course of action for minor ailments. I also wish you a healthy 2020.