Dr Hasan Chowhan, a GP in Colchester and chairman of NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “There are some quick and simple actions you can take which represent the foundations of good winter health care. If you are in an at-risk group and have been invited to have a flu vaccination by your GP practice please take up the offer. Keep a supply of basic medicines at home so you can deal with minor illness and injury more easily. And, if you use repeat prescription medicine make sure you’ll have enough to last over the holidays. It takes at least 48 hours for your GP practice to process a repeat prescription request, which then needs to be dispensed so please order your prescription about one week before you are due to run out."
Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I urge people to continue to follow the guidance on Hands-Face-Space over the festive period. It remains vitally important that we protect ourselves and others - so please don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Coronavirus hasn’t gone away for Christmas. One of the most effective actions you can take is to practice regular and effective hand washing. This will help prevent the spread not only of coronavirus, but also the flu and other winter bugs.”
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: “This is one of the busiest times of year for the NHS so I urge people to visit their local pharmacy or to call NHS 111 if they are feeling unwell. 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.”
Diane Hull, Chief Nurse at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Christmas can be a joyful time of the year, filled with festivities and seeing loved ones. However, for some people, it can also be one of the hardest times of the year - this so more than ever as we have to learn to celebrate differently. If you’re worried about feeling isolated and lonely why not join an online wellbeing social? You’ll be sure to ‘meet’ other like-minded people and have a bit of fun.
“Across the festive period the Wellbeing service is holding a variety of online social events, including cuppa and a chat, relaxation station and carers cuppa, all designed to improve your wellbeing and help you connect with others. Events are open to everyone and to find out more, go to the Social Events page on our website HERE
“If you start to feel unsafe, distressed or worried about your mental health you can call the First Response helpline on 0808 196 3494 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all through the festive period.”
In north east Essex, mental health support can be accessed 24/7 by calling NHS 111 and choosing option 2.
Tania Farrow, Pharmacist and Chief Officer for Suffolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee said: “Community pharmacies are still providing flu vaccinations within their communities to those who are eligible. They also offer a wider range of over-the-counter medicines so you can manage any minor ailments in the comfort of your own home. On the Christmas and New Year bank holidays, some pharmacies will remain open to provide essential advice and services this holiday season. Please order your repeat prescription in good time, allowing 5-7 days for these to be processed and dispensed safely.”
Stuart Keeble, Director of Public Health Suffolk, said: “As we head into the festive season and the weather is turning colder, it is vital that we take steps to look after our physical and emotional wellbeing.
“This year has brought new challenges, we have all needed to adapt to a new ‘normal’. Many of us may be coping with bereavement, debt or seeking relationship support.
"The Covid Hub brings together resources and services which can help. If you, or anyone you know is struggling, please remember that support is available. Visit the Covid Hub to find the right help for you www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/covidhub ”
• GP practices will be closed on Christmas Day Friday December 25, Monday December 28 and Friday January 1. On other dates GP practices will be open their usual hours
• Some pharmacies will be open on Christmas Day Friday December 25, Monday December 28 and Friday January 1 - see locations and opening times HERE