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Plan ahead for holiday healthcare

Last updated: 25/05/2021

With schools’ half-term holidays fast approaching and a bank holiday weekend on its way (29-31 May), healthcare professionals in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) are reminding residents what to do if they think they need urgent medical help over the break.

Demand for urgent and emergency care services often rises over school and public holidays, which can increase pressures on local A&E departments.

Yet many minor injuries and illnesses can be treated more quickly and easily via an alternative service such as an emergency pharmacist, minor injury unit, or the out-of-hours GP – all of which are available during evenings and weekends and accessible via NHS 111.

Dr Lesley Ward, a local GP and clinical lead for urgent care at BNSSG clinical commissioning group, said: “We hope that everyone enjoys a restful and healthy break but if you do need to access healthcare urgently it’s good to know there are lots of options there for you.

“NHS services are available throughout the bank holiday and half-term and if you need immediate advice but aren’t sure where to go, you can contact NHS 111 at any time for help.

“In some cases, very common ailments can also be cared for at home with over-the-counter medicines, so it’s worth making sure you’ve got basics such as painkillers and allergy medication – speak to your pharmacist for advice.”

Residents with repeat prescriptions are also being encouraged to check they have sufficient medication to last the bank holiday weekend. Repeat prescriptions can usually be ordered online and collected directly from the pharmacy, saving time and avoiding unnecessary trips to the GP.

Options for holiday care

NHS 111 is available around the clock by phone or online and offers immediate medical help and guidance on what to do next. Contact NHS if you need help urgently or aren’t sure where to go. Depending on your need, the service can connect you with a healthcare professional or book you in to the most appropriate service, such as a local minor injury unit, emergency dentist or the out-of-hours GP.

Minor injury units and urgent treatment centres offer fast, walk-in treatment for injuries that need attention urgently but aren’t life-threatening – such as sprains, bites or burns. They treat children as well as adults and are available on weekends and bank holidays. You can access them via NHS 111 or see https://www.sirona-cic.org.uk/nhsservices/adult-services/minor-injuries-and-urgent-treatment/ for your nearest.

Your GP should be your first point of contact for conditions you can’t treat yourself or with the help of a pharmacist. GPs are open during the day and on some evenings and weekends and can help you face-to-face, by phone, video or email. If you need help right away, including at times when your GP is closed, you should contact NHS 111 for advice.

Pharmacies can advise on self-care as well as helping with very minor holiday ailments like sunburn, hayfever and coughs or colds. They’re open long hours and there are always emergency pharmacists available in our area over bank holidays – see https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy/ for help finding your nearest.

The NHS website at www.nhs.uk also offers lots of advice on how to manage common conditions safely at home, and when to seek more help.

Finally, remember that A&E and 999 are for genuine, life-threatening emergencies such as loss of consciousness, severe bleeding, or persistent, severe chest pain. If you’re not sure whether it is an emergency call NHS 111 – if you need an emergency ambulance it will be dispatched right away.

For more information about local services, see https://www.bnssgccg.nhs.uk/health-services/