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The NHS guide to getting medical help and support this festive season

Preparation is key in making sure you and your family know where to access medical assistance during the festive period.

By understanding where to get the right medical advice or attention, and when, you can help to ensure that you and your family members get the right treatment during the holidays.

Think ‘pharmacist’ first.

When starting to feel unwell, the best thing to do is seek advice from a local pharmacist. They're highly trained medical professionals who can see you without a pre-booked appointment and advise you if you need to see your GP or seek medical attention elsewhere.

They can also offer expert advice on how to treat the symptoms of many minor ailments and injuries. They’re the best person to see to help patients halt winter-related illnesses in their tracks.

The public holidays will affect the opening times of many pharmacists in the area. You should ensure that you are as prepared as possible for these temporary changes by making sure any repeat prescriptions are ordered and that you have enough medication to see you through the festive period.

There will still be some pharmacies open on 25 December and 1 January  – information can be found below:

Time to see a GP?

If symptoms are getting worse, or they’re just not going away, you should call your GP to arrange an appointment.

It’s now even easier to see a GP when you need to, with practices working together to offer evening and weekend appointments. This might mean that you are able to be seen at a different GP practice (if necessary) with a doctor or nurse who will be able to access their medical record from their usual practice.

In order to book an evening or weekend appointment, patients must call their GP practice – these appointments are not available to book online. If your practice is shut, call NHS 111 who will be able to direct you to a practice which is open.

More information can be read below:

Remember, your GP surgery will have different opening hours during this period. You should check with your GP surgery as to what their opening hours are throughout the holidays.

When to use NHS 111

NHS 111 is now available either online or by dialling 111, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The service can provide you with any urgent medical information or advice, as well as get you any urgent medical attention or care you need.

NHS 111 will direct you to the right local service first time, by assessing your situation and then:

  • Giving you self-care advice
  • Connecting you to a nurse, emergency dentist or GP
  • Booking you a face-to-face appointment
  • Sending an ambulance directly, if necessary
  • Directing you to a local service that can help you best

NHS 111 is different to calling 999 and it’s important to know the difference.

999 should only be used in a life-threatening emergency.

If it’s not life-threatening, dial 111 first – so you can get the right care in the right place at the right time.

Need urgent treatment?

There are urgent care centres at both the Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley Hospital which will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can provide urgent treatment for injuries and illnesses and patients don’t need an appointment or referral to be seen.

Accident and emergency departments (A&E) are on-site at both the Royal Preston Hospital (24hrs) and Chorley Hospital (12hrs, 8am-8pm). They can treat medical emergencies such as life-threatening injuries, illnesses and major trauma.

Mental health support is available throughout this period

The Wellbeing and Mental Health Helpline is a Freephone service that is available 365 days a year and can be accessed by calling 0800 915 4640. The helpline is open between 7pm and 11pm Monday to Friday and 12pm until Midnight.

Samaritans are also available to call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can be accessed by dialling 116 123.

Online mental health support is also available for those in Chorley, South Ribble and Greater Preston – it can be accessed by visiting – this service is not intended for those in an emergency situation but can offer support as part of an online community. This service is available to anyone in the area aged 16-25.

If at any point you do find yourself in an emergency situation, or at any point you feel like you can’t keep yourself safe, you will be able to access help at an A&E department. Mental health professionals are available 24/7. They are there to help and support you.

Dr Lindsey Dickinson, GP director of NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG, said:

“A lot of people think that just because there are public holidays that their options are limited if they’re feeling unwell. That is simply not the case – there are more appointments, pharmacies open and 24 hour support available so people can get the help they need.

“Nobody wants their festive season ruined by illness, whether it’s themselves or a loved one. By being prepared, such as knowing where to go and when, you can get support in the right place and at the right time.

“As a GP, I would advise people to take a “just in case” approach with their preparation – make sure you’ve got everything you need in terms of prescription medication and cabinet essentials like paracetamol, speak to your pharmacist at the first sign of illness to help fight symptoms before they get worse and know where you can get help if you become unwell during the holidays”

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