Local health chiefs are reminding people of where to go if they need health advice or treatment over the Christmas holiday period.
During bank holidays, when GP practices will be closed, people should contact NHS 111 in the first instance – unless it is a 999 emergency.
NHS 111 will direct people to the most appropriate local health service, which could include an out of hours GP, a local Walk-in Centre, a pharmacy, or hospital Accident & Emergency (A&E) department.
If patients are assessed as needing A&E, they will be given a booked time slot to reduce waiting times and ensure that they are safely socially-distanced from other patients.
However, people should still dial 999 in a medical emergency, such as a suspected stroke or heart attack.
Dr Fiona Lemmens, GP and Chair of NHS Liverpool CCG said:
“No one wants to get ill over Christmas, but it’s important to know where to get health advice and treatment, just in case you or a loved one does become unwell. This year we’re advising all patients to contact NHS 111 first if you need to see a health professional whilst your usual GP surgery is closed.
“By contacting NHS 111 you will still be able to see a local GP if required, or they may direct you to another more appropriate service such as a local Walk-in Centre or hospital department instead.”
She adds, “Don’t forget that there are also lots of things you can do to help prevent illness over Christmas, such as making sure that you order any repeat prescriptions early so you don’t run out of medication, visiting your pharmacy for advice on home remedies, and getting your free flu vaccine as soon as possible if you’re eligible for one.”
Dr Nikhil Sharma, Medical Director For Acute and Emergency Medicine at Liverpool University Hospitals, Liverpool University Hospitals said:
“Because of COVID-19 our local hospitals are already much busier than normal this winter, so don’t forget that any steps you can take to stay well and keep yourself out of hospital such as getting the flu vaccine, washing your hands and wearing a mask, could prevent the need for a trip to hospital at all.
“For those who do need treatment or advice this Christmas, we’re asking all patients to contact NHS 111 first - unless it’s a 999 medical emergency – as this will help us to ensure they are treated in the right place, and the right time, first time.
“If patients do need hospital care then using NHS 111’s booked time slots rather than just turning up at an Emergency Department will help us to ensure safe social distancing and reduce the numbers of patients waiting in our department at one time.”
Dr Anne Kerr, Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital said:
“Children, young people and their families will always be our priority. Using NHS 111 and other sources of information and support before coming to the Emergency Department will help you and us to decide who needs our emergency care, and direct patients to the best care option for them.”
For treatment of minor illness and injuries patients can also still access a local Walk-In Centre (open 8am-8pm daily) by calling 0300 100 1004 to pre-book an appointment.
Sonia Roberts, Operational Service Manager for Walk In Centres at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We’d like to remind everyone to book an appointment before attending our walk-in centres by ringing 0300 100 1004 or by contacting NHS 111. You’ll be triaged on the phone and then asked to attend one of our three walk-in centres at Old Swan, Garston or Smithdown Children’s, which will remain open 8am-8pm every day during the Christmas period.
“We can see both adults and children with minor injuries or ailments, and emergency contraception and chlamydia screening is also available from our Walk-In Centres too.”
“The Trust prides itself on maintaining high standards of infection control, so all of our sites are safe and clean, and staff will be wearing PPE to help keep patients safe too.”
You can find the opening times and more information on Walk-in Centres here.
You can also visit your local pharmacist for advice or treatment for a wide range of minor winter illnesses and ailments too. Many now offer longer opening hours – including over evening and weekends.
You can find Christmas opening times for local pharmacies here.
For further NHS advice on how to stay well over winter, visit: www.nhs.uk/staywell