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NHS Wales Chief Exec issues advice ahead of busy winter season

11 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Image: NHS Wales

Stephen Price

The head of NHS Wales has issued advice ahead of an expected busy winter, calling for the Welsh public to rely upon pharmacies and to practice better self-care.

Judith Paget, NHS Wales Chief Executive, has issued advice which details the role we all have to play to help reduce the pressures faced by our emergency services and GPs this winter.

Ms Paget’s advice is aimed at encouraging everyone to get to know the different ways they can access the NHS care they need, quickly and easily – from local pharmacies to using the NHS 111 service online or over the phone.

She said: “You might not even have to leave your home or workplace. Gone are the days where people feel that they have no option but to see a GP or go to an emergency department for urgent care.”

Evolution

According to Ms Paget, using alternative services to GP appointments or visiting accident and emergency departments could mean you get assessed and treated quicker.

With 95% of practices across Wales offering a mix of remote, face to face, urgent and pre-bookable appointments, the Welsh public are being urged to use online services where they can, but those that do call have been asked to give the receptionist or phone operator as much detail as possible to ensure the right course of action is decided upon.

While most people expect to then see a doctor at the next stage, a detailed initial contact could mean a more streamlined experience long-term, with Ms Paget saying: “You could be referred to a physiotherapist, practice nurse or occupational therapist at your GP or advised to use other community services available like a pharmacist or optician. Rest assured, if you need to speak to a doctor then you will be offered a telephone, video or face-to-face appointment the same day or in the future, dependent on your needs.”

The Chief Executive’s communication to the Welsh public stresses the importance of local pharmacies where, she says, the public can free advice on many health conditions and medications.

Common ailments Ms Paget encourages people to see their pharmacist for, instead of a doctor,  include sore throats, indigestion, chicken pox and conjunctivitis. In many cases, they can also arrange a prescription.

Challenging

NHS 111 Wales offers urgent health advice, both online and over the telephone, 24 hours a day seven days a week. If you call 111, you will first speak to a highly trained call handler to make sure you are offered the right care. This could include a callback from a healthcare professional, being directed to a pharmacist or minor injury unit, or advice on how you can look after yourself at home. Fewer than one in five people who call NHS 111 Wales are advised to visit an emergency department, and NHS Wales hope that by using this service, the public are saved time and, more importantly, GPs and hospitals stand less chance of becoming overwhelmed.

This year, NHS Wales expanded their 111 service to provide urgent mental health support to people of all ages in Wales, 24 hours a day. Anyone that needs to talk to a mental health professional urgently, as well as those concerned about a family member, can now call NHS 111 Wales and press option 2.

The winter months will be challenging for the NHS, but the proposals that have come via Ms Paget today are hoped will reduce pressures faced by emergency services and GPs.

As well as using the full breadth of community and health services to access NHS care, Ms Paget has said there are simple things we can do to take better care of ourselves and our families.

Ms Paget said: “Practicing self-care is something we can all benefit from, particularly if something is putting a strain on your health or wellbeing. Keeping active, connecting with family and friends, maintaining a healthy diet and ensuring you’re getting enough sleep are all proven to help protect and improve our wellbeing.”

She added: “Colder weather brings greater risk of injury due to trips and falls, and the number of people feeling unwell from respiratory illnesses will also rise. It helps to be prepared so staying up to date with your vaccinations is the best defence against a range of illnesses, including flu and COVID19,. Having a basic supply of simple medicines to manage minor illnesses such as colds and flus will also ensure you’re one step ahead.”

For free advice on self-care and more information on the different ways you can access NHS services, visit the Help Us Help You website or search ‘Help Us Help You Wales’.”

 


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