NHS Lincolnshire East CCG is urging people to make sure they choose the most appropriate care for their ailments this winter.
Despite a relatively mild winter so far, local NHS services are facing increased demand, particularly from elderly and vulnerable patients, and the weather is forecast to get significantly colder towards the end of the week.
Tracy Pilcher, Chief Nurse, Lincolnshire East CCG, said: “Even without severe weather, such as snow or prolonged sub-zero temperatures, the arrival of winter invariably means the NHS as a whole faces considerable challenges in dealing with greater numbers of patients.
“Whilst the NHS plans for increased demand, we need help from people which they can give by using the most appropriate way to treat their ailments.”
Colder weather and viruses lead to an increase in the number of people being admitted to hospital as an emergency, particularly those with a respiratory condition.
Lincolnshire East CCG has produced a list of tips to help people plan and ensure they receive the most appropriate and timely treatment during winter:
• Ensure you have sufficient over the counter medicines to treat minor ailments, such as coughs, colds, cuts and scratches. The NHS Choices website has further information about sensible items to keep in your medicine cabinet at home
• If you feel unwell, particularly if you are elderly, seeking early advice from your GP or pharmacist could prevent a minor ailment becoming more serious. The NHS Feeling Under the Weather campaign is aimed at people over 60 or anyone aged over 45 looking after elderly relatives or neighbours, encouraging them to get early health advice
• If you have an ongoing medical condition requiring repeat prescriptions, ensure you have sufficient supplied to avoid running out when your GP surgery is closed
• Your local pharmacist is a good source of information, advice and treatment for a wide range of minor ailments
• For urgent medical needs that are not emergencies, NHS 111 is a free national phone number able to provide advice at any time on where and how to receive the most appropriate treatment
• This year’s NHS Flu campaign is encouraging all those who are eligible for the free flu vaccination to take up the offer. It is targeted at those with long-term health conditions, pregnant women and parents of children aged two-four. Lincolnshire East CCG is supporting the campaign by providing background advice and guidance on who is eligible for a free flu jab and the importance of getting one
• Keep a look out for elderly or vulnerable neighbours to ensure they are staying safe and well
• If you have symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea, stay away from hospitals including visiting friends or relatives. Norovirus, often called the winter vomiting bug, is highly contagious and can spread quickly in hospitals
• Don’t go to a hospital A&E department or dial 999 for an ambulance unless it is for a serious or life-threatening emergency.
Tracy added: “Clearly there are times when attending A&E or dialing 999 is the right thing to do. However, using these services for less serious conditions does not mean a patient will receive quicker treatment, and may result in a delay for someone else whose condition is serious or even life threatening.
“Taking a few easy and sensible precautions now, along with using the best way to receive treatment if needed, can help ensure the NHS continues to provide high quality, appropriate care for everyone needing it this winter.”