Dr Shane Gordon: Patients heeded advice to only use A&E in emergency

Health advisor Charlotte Scott takes an NHS 111 call

Health advisor Charlotte Scott takes an NHS 111 call - Credit: Archant

It’s hard to believe that after weeks of planning and the traditional hype, the busy Christmas and new year period is now behind us.

As we enter into the first couple of weeks of 2015, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those hard working NHS staff for their professionalism during an exceptionally busy period.

I also wanted to thank those thousands of local people who have worked with us to access the most appropriate services in meeting their healthcare needs.

By looking after themselves, seeking advice on treating common illnesses from local pharmacists, calling NHS 111 as well as accessing the walk-in centre and minor injuries units across the district, they have helped us to reduce the pressures on A&E.

We know this has happened because of the significant increase in demand on these services.

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For instance, there have been 2,070 more calls to NHS 111 across north Essex between Christmas Eve and December 27, compared to the same period last year (a 77% rise).

Demand has also significantly increased at the Colchester walk-in centre as well as the minor injuries units at Clacton and Harwich during the bank holiday.

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While the festivities may be over for another year, the enormous pressures on our health systems continue. Our plea for assistance from local people remains true so we can continue to provide effective healthcare services while addressing seasonal winter demands.

You may have heard the term ‘self-care’ in recent weeks – this is about us all being more aware and making simple changes to our own health and lifestyle.

This might include taking regular exercise, eating a healthy and balanced diet, drinking fluids and looking after symptoms of everyday illnesses such as flu, coughs or colds.

Those people who are able to self-care are far less likely to need their GP, saving them the time and inconvenience of visiting a practice or waiting to be seen by their doctor.

If you do require clinical input, pharmacists are also well positioned to recommend which remedies can best treat the symptoms of many minor ailments.

They can provide confidential, expert advice and treatment for a range of common illnesses and complaints, in a similar way to a GP.

One thing is for sure – the high level of demand is not likely to significantly fall during the winter period – so being aware of the alternative healthcare provision such as NHS 111, pharmacists and self-care has never been so important.

Wishing you a very happy start to 2015!

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