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This information was updated December 2004
With the NHS nowadays, there are lots of choices. By making the right choice at the right time, you will get the best possible treatment. Next time you or a family member are feeling unwell, and you are not sure what to do, use this handy checklist to help you to decide.
Can you treat yourself at home?
A well-stocked medicine cabinet will help you to treat many everyday illnesses at home. For example, a small supply of paracetamol or ibuprofen (available as syrup for children) and other remedies will help you treat common ailments such as coughs, colds and sore throats this winter. If your symptoms worsen, it is worth checking with your pharmacist for immediate over the counter advice before booking an appointment with your GP.
Before you ring the GP – think Pharmacist!
While there are no miraculous cures for ‘flu and other winter ills, you can keep yourself fighting fit and ready to win the cold war with a healthy dose of good advice from your local pharmacist.
Pharmacists are experts on medicines and how they work. They are qualified to give advice on common complaints, such as coughs, colds, flu, sore throats, aches and pains.
They can also answer any questions about medicines and other issues, such as healthy eating and giving up smoking. Your pharmacist can advise you when your symptoms are more serious and may suggest you visit your GP or Practice Nurse.
Always check the expiry date on medicines and return any unused or unwanted medicines to the pharmacist. When buying over-thecounter remedies, tell the pharmacist if you are pregnant or breast feeding, if you have other medical conditions or if you are taking other medicines (prescribed or bought). The pharmacist can then check that what you are buying is safe and compatible with your other treatments.
You can talk to your pharmacist in confidence – even about the most personal symptoms – and you don’t need to make an appointment.
The local GP Surgery has become the favourite first port of call for patients who are feeling unwell, but many people don’t realise the range of healthcare options available to them.
The vast majority of winter health conditions are caused by viruses with symptoms which will last a short length of time and which cannot be treated with antibiotics. Most people should get the advice they need from their local pharmacist or from NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 (www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk).
If you have a ‘flare up’ of a long standing illness such as kidney or lung disease, bronchitis, asthma or diabetes; that is not responding to self care or advice from your pharmacist; a call to your GP Surgery is the best course of action to take. By contacting your GP Surgery, a member of the team such as a practice nurse or a doctor may be able to help you with advice over the telephone or you can make an appointment.
GPs are experts in family medicine. If you are worried about the health of your child they are the best people to call.
If you need advice when your surgery is closed, consider calling NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or if it is an urgent medical matter that can’t wait until the GP surgery re-opens call the new Gloucestershire ‘Out of Hours’ telephone service on 08454 220 220.
If you book an appointment to see your GP, but later realise you will be unable to make it or no longer need it, please tell the practice receptionist as soon as possible, so that they can give your appointment to someone else. Missing an appointment wastes precious time and resources whatever the time of year, but during the winter months, when GP surgeries are even busier than usual, it has a particularly bad effect.
Finally, GPs are often asked by patients for sick notes when they need time off work due to ill health. It’s worth remembering that under normal circumstances patients will only need a sick note if they need to be off work for more than one working week. For shorter periods of sickness people can self-certificate.
The New ‘Out of Hours’ Service
If you need urgent treatment or care ‘Out of Hours’ that can’t wait until the GP surgery reopens you only need to ring one number for help – 08454 220 220. ‘Out of Hours’ is the period of time between 6.30pm and 8am on weekdays and covers all day and night at weekends and public holidays.
To ensure that patients benefit from quick access to help, please do NOT use this number for prescriptions, test results or routine matters – it is for URGENT ‘OUT OF HOURS’ medical matters only.
Contacting this number will put you through to specially trained NHS staff who are used to dealing with confidential medical information. They will make sure that you receive the right advice and help quickly.
The staff who talk to you on the telephone will ask you some questions to establish what help you need e.g. your name, address, the name of your GP and your reason for calling. During this call, these staff will either:
- pass the call to a doctor or nurse who may be able to deal with the medical problem over the telephone
- offer you advice on self care or connect you to NHS Direct
- refer you to a local Primary Care Centre (PCC – a place where doctors and nurses see people who require urgent treatment or care ‘Out of Hours’)
- call out a member of the on-call team, who will carry out a home visit if there is a need
- or, in an emergency send out an ambulance.
The ‘Out of Hours’ service is run by dedicated ‘Out of Hours’ staff including doctors, specialist nurses and other health and social care workers.
Changes to the repeat prescription service
You can no longer collect your repeat prescriptions from your GP surgery on a Saturday morning.
How to obtain a repeat prescription:
- Make a request to your GP surgery in good time – prescriptions will usually be ready 2-3 working days after you order them
- Order the items you need by name – use the re-order slip if you have one
- Only order the medicines you need. Tell the surgery if there are items that you no longer take
- Many pharmacies are able to collect your prescription from the surgery after you have ordered it – you can simply collect the medicines from the pharmacy. Ask your pharmacy for information about this service
- Alternatively you can collect the prescription yourself during the surgery’s normal opening hours.
Minor Injury Units (MIUs)
Minor Injury Units (MIUs) based at the local hospitals in Berkeley, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cinderford (Dilke), Cirencester, Fairford, Lydney, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, Tetbury, Tewkesbury and Winchcombe provide a variety of services to people who are unwell or to people who have had accidents.
The size of each Unit and the range of services available varies across the county, so if you’re unsure whether it’s right for you, contact the Hospitals direct or telephone NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. If you, a family member or friend require emergency care, contact 999 (see section below).
Accident and Emergency (A&E)
Do I need to go to a hospital A&E Department or call 999?
On a typical day in the NHS, hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments in Gloucestershire will treat more than 500 people. During the winter this is expected to increase and in December, on average, there are 15% more emergency admissions than there are in August.
To help A&E departments to cope effectively it is important that people use them properly and think carefully about whether or not their condition or illness is an emergency.
An emergency is a critical or life threatening situation, which may include loss of consciousness, severe breathing difficulties, deep wounds such as stab wounds, severe chest pain or heavy loss of blood.
In most cases, it’s obvious if you, or a family member, is seriously ill and needs urgent hospital treatment. If emergency care is required a trip to A&E or a 999 call for an ambulance is the right course of action to take. If patients use the Ambulance Service unnecessarily they may be preventing others with life-threatening conditions from getting immediate care.
If the situation is less critical and you are unsure whether to seek medical help, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for advice. Please remember that hospital A&E departments are designed to treat emergencies only. Some patients may not be treated in A&E but instead an appointment will be made with the GP at an appropriate time.
You can call NHS Direct on 0845 4647, any time, for immediate advice on what to do if you or a family member feels ill.
NHS Direct is a confidential 24-hour advice and health information service staffed by nurses and professional advisers.
NHS Direct also provides information on particular health conditions; self-help or support organisations; and local health services (such as your nearest GP, dentist or out of hours pharmacy).
You might find it useful to visit the NHS Direct Online website. NHS Direct Online provides high quality health advice and information on the Internet. There's guidance to treating common health problems at home, an encyclopedia of illnesses and conditions, and details of NHS services in your area.