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CATHY SHAW: We can all do our bit to reduce the pressure on NHS

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Medikamente in einer Apotheke
Medikamente in einer Apotheke

The excitement around the festive period is a highlight for many people. We love spending time with our families and friends at Christmas time, especially following the challenges we’ve faced over the last couple of years.

As a public health professional, I may have a slightly different take on the festive period to some people. We all know it is a time for fun, family and festivities, but it is also a time when we need to look after our own health, and look after others.

This winter promises to be a challenging time for our health and social care services across Highland.

It has been a difficult few years for the NHS and the pressures we faced continue to place strain on our services and our patients.

We all have a responsibility to protect our NHS workforce and you can play your part this winter in helping colleagues across our area to care for the people of Highland.

We can all do our bit to reduce the pressure on our NHS by seeking the right care in the right place for our health needs.

We remain open 24/7 for emergencies, such as a suspected heart attack or stroke, and we always prioritise those patients with the greatest clinical need. This may mean that some patients are often waiting longer than we would like.

If you think your need is urgent but not an emergency, NHS 24 is available by calling 111. In many of our remote and rural areas we have doctors and advanced practitioners working out-of-hours who may be able to come to you, saving you a journey to your nearest hospital. NHS 24 has guidance and advice on what is available in your area.

NHS 24 can also help if your GP or dental practice is closed and you cannot wait until they re-open.

The NHS Inform website also provides accurate and reliable information to help you make informed decisions about your health needs.

It includes advice and information on how to manage common symptoms such as fever and vomiting and also has symptom checkers to let you know where to go if you need further medical care.

We have a range of services across NHS Highland which can help patients with minor illness or injuries and prevent unnecessary long waits in the emergency department.

Community pharmacies across our area should be your first stop if you have a minor illness such as a cold, upset stomach or general aches and pains.

Please take the time to check on your elderly relatives, friends and neighbours at this time of year, and make sure they are staying warm, eating well and staying hydrated.

If you are registered with a GP practice in Scotland, you can use the Pharmacy First service at any NHS pharmacy. This service offers advice, treatment or referrals to other healthcare teams if required. You can find details of your nearest pharmacy on our website.

It is also very important to ensure you stock up on medication in the run up to Christmas. This includes any prescription medication you may have, but it’s also important you have a supply of over-the-counter medicines, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

General Practices are open and available for your health and wellbeing needs, however they will be working differently as a result of Covid-19. Some practices may also be closed over the festive period. Please check with your practice if they are closed over the holidays.

Although Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted for some time, the virus continues to pose challenges for the NHS in acute and social care settings. We would remind all staff and visitors that it is recommended that you wear a mask while in a healthcare setting. This will help limit the spread of Covid-19 and other winter viruses.

Please do not present to any healthcare setting if you, or anyone you live with, has tested positive for Covid-19 or have any symptoms.

Everyone at NHS Highland would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year!

  • Cathy Shaw is lead advanced practitioner for NHS Highland’s remote and rural support team.

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