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Health care advice for the festive season

With Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day all falling on a weekend this festive season, people are reminded that GP practices will be closed on 25 – 28 December and 1 – 3 January.

Some pharmacies will be open on these dates and the NHS 111 service is available online and by ‘phone every day, 24/7 – all offering help and advice if you feel unwell.

Mental health crisis support is accessible round-the-clock in Suffolk by calling First Response on 0808 196 3494 and in north east Essex by calling NHS 111 and choosing option 2.

Dr Hasan Chowhan, a GP in Colchester and chairman of NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I urge people to do all they can to protect their health this winter and if eligible to take-up the offer of flu and COVID-19 vaccination. 

“Make sure you are prepared to deal with those festive illnesses such as indigestion and hangovers and winter coughs and colds by keeping a supply of basic medicines at home. 

“Check you’ll have enough repeat prescription medicine to last over the holiday weekends, remembering that GP practices will be closed for four consecutive days at Christmas and three over the new year, and that it takes at least 48 hours for your GP practice to process a repeat prescription request, which then needs the same time to be dispensed by the pharmacy.”

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The increasing prevalence of Omicron means we mustn’t let the festive season lull us into a false sense of security. Keep practising good hand hygiene, wear a face covering where it is recommended to do so and keep the rooms in your home well ventilated.

“Of course, COVID-19 isn’t the only virus against which we need to protect ourselves. Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is also very prevalent as are colds and flu – and again, the regular washing of hands with warm water and soap is one of the best actions we can take to prevent the spread of germs.”

Dr Mark Shenton, a GP with Suffolk Primary Care, chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and Professor of Integrated Care at the University of Suffolk, said: “The NHS and its staff are under incredible pressure so please do all you can to help us. If you have an urgent but not life-threating issue and think you need to go to your hospital’s emergency department, call NHS 111 first. NHS 111 can book you an appointment at your local emergency department, meaning you’ll have an allocated time to attend hospital. The NHS 111 advisor could also make you a direct appointment with a GP or pharmacist or give you the advice you need without needing to access any other service.”

Tania Farrow, Chief Officer for Suffolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee said: “Please get Christmas ready by requesting your repeat prescriptions in good time and sufficiently stocking your medicine cabinet which will also help to support your pharmacy team during what is annually their busiest time. 

“The greatest gift you can give your loved ones is a COVID free Christmas, so make sure you take up the offer of a booster jab and test regularly using lateral flow devices.”
Link to pharmacy opening times on December 25, 27 and 28 and January 3 HERE and pharmacy opening times on other dates HERE

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