Keeping healthy this winter is nothing to be sneezed at

There are some simple steps to avoid ill-health this winter
There are some simple steps to avoid ill-health this winter

NHS 24 is urging people across Scotland to look after their health this winter with a few simple steps that can help to avoid illness and take the pressure off busy NHSScotland services over the festive holidays.

The advice is being shared as part of the national ‘Be Healthwise’ campaign which was launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison MSP.

The ‘Be Healthwise’ campaign is fronted by Dr Owl and advises people that stocking up on over the counter medicines, checking any repeat prescriptions and ordering only what is needed to cover the holidays can help to avoid or deal with the most common winter ailments. It’s also a good idea to know GP surgery and local pharmacy opening hours over the festive break.

Being prepared for common winter illnesses, or knowing where to get help if ill health does strike means that dedicated NHSScotland staff can help those most in need at one of the busiest times of the year.

NHS 24’s Medical Director Professor George Crooks said: “Winter can be a busy time, especially over the festive holidays, and the NHS across Scotland prepares for this additional pressure. Last year NHS 24’s 111 service took almost 76,000 calls over the eight days of the festive break. That’s 28 per cent more calls than we’d normally expect and almost half of those calls were about medicines.

“Being prepared by having enough repeat medication to cover you and having some simple home remedies available can make all the difference if illness strikes. It means people can not only look after their own health but also support our dedicated NHS to focus on people who may need additional care.

“We would also remind people of the wide range of health information available at NHS Inform which also now includes a self-help guide to enable people to understand their symptoms and make a choice about how they deal with it.

“Using these services, rather than turning up at A&E, will keep our emergency departments free for those who really need them.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “We know winter months can put additional pressures on our hospitals and GPs’ surgeries, which is why we have been working to provide additional support to health boards over winter to ensure people get the care they need.

“But we can also all do our own bit to look after our own and our family’s health, and help preserve our frontline services for those most in need. The Be Healthwise campaign helps to remind people about the excellent range of services available. For example, people who run out of medicines or dressings can speak to a pharmacist about an urgent supply, rather than going to their A&E or GP out-of-hours service.

“In addition, those who can protect themselves early should do so. Every year in Scotland, thousands of adults and children are hospitalised for treatment of flu and its complications. The flu vaccination provides the best defence against flu, so I would encourage everyone who is eligible to take up the offer of the free flu vaccine.”

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, says it’s important people know what services are available, and when: “GPs and other healthcare staff will be working in out of hours units across Scotland throughout the festive break to ensure that people who become ill and need to be seen before their GP practice re-opens can get help. Be prepared by finding out when your local surgery is going to be open, order repeat prescriptions early and stock up on remedies for seasonal illnesses from your local pharmacy.”