Chair's blog

Have a happy – and healthy – festive season

21 December 2015

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or just enjoying a well-deserved few days off, the last thing you want to think about over the festive season is what to do if you should fall ill or hurt yourself. 

But it is worth knowing what’s out there to help you, as this is in fact one of the busiest times of the year for the NHS.

Unless it is a very serious or potentially life-threatening situation, please don’t go to A&E or call an ambulance. It is estimated that up to 40 per cent of people who visit A&E do not need to be there, so unless you are very ill, accessing other services is a much quicker way to get yourself seen, treated, and back home in time for the Queen’s Christmas Day message.

As a GP, here are my top alternatives I would recommend you try:

  • Pharmacies: for coughs, colds, stomach bugs, rashes, and many more minor ailments, your first stop should be your local pharmacy. Pharmacists are medically trained and are experts in most medicines, so they are well placed to advise on what over-the-counter remedies you can take to relieve your symptoms. Not all pharmacies will be open on Christmas, Boxing and New Year’s days, but you can find your nearest open pharmacy by calling NHS 111.
  • GP out of hours service: if your pharmacist can’t help, you may well need to see a GP. Here in Redbridge we are lucky to have our GP hubs, which provide urgent out of hours appointments for people who need to see a doctor when their usual surgery is closed. To book an appointment, call the hub on 020 3770 1888.
  • NHS 111: if you need medical help fast, but it’s not life-threatening or you’re just not sure where to go, as well as telling you about pharmacies an NHS 111 advisor can assess you over the phone and direct you to the right place. The service is staffed by trained advisors and experienced clinicians and it available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Of course there are things you can do to help keep safe and well over the festive period, and avoid having to come into contact with any medical services at all. Here are the top causes of festive illness and injury, and my tips for avoiding them:

  • Drinking too much: it can be tempting to overindulge when you are celebrating, but the consequences can range from a nasty hangover to a serious injury. We’re supporting London emergency services’ Eat, Drink, Be Safe campaign this year. You can download their app or visit their website for some great tips on how to minimise the impact of that festive tipple, including alternating drinks with water, eating well to line your stomach, and planning how you are going to get home before you head out.
  • Food poisoning: that turkey is a lot bigger than your usual roast chicken, and if you don’t cook it thoroughly your family might be in for a miserable Boxing Day. Everyone has their own special turkey recipe, but it’s important to remember that you should only take it out of the oven when a skewer pushed into the thickest part of the breast or thigh comes out hot, and the juices run clear.
  • Colds and flu: colds are unpleasant, but flu can be a serious illness. If you are aged over 65, are pregnant or have a long term health condition, it’s not too late to get your flu jab and most people in these categories can get it for free. Your chances of catching any viral infection increase if you are run down so ensure you heat your home to a minimum of 18 Celsius – because staying warm will help you stay well.

I hope that by following these simple steps you can ensure your family stays safe and well over the holidays. From all of us at Redbridge CCG, I wish you a happy – and healthy – festive season.