With winter on the doorstep, our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are urging Hywel Dda residents to think local and use community healthcare services if they are ill or need non-urgent treatment.
Residents are being urged to be Winter Wise by getting their flu jab, visiting their local pharmacist for minor ailments or injuries, and making sure friends, family and neighbours are being well looked-after.
With demand on hospitals rising it is crucial that only those most in need of specialist or emergency care attend their local A&E. Residents can play their part and help to ease the pressure on our hardworking clinical staff by Choosing Well and making sure they use the right healthcare options for their needs.
The Health Board is once again working with the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, local authorities and the third sector to prepare for the busy period ahead with a winter plan. This sets out how the organisation is preparing to run services as smoothly as possible to ensure patients’ needs continue to be met 24 hours a day.
Residents are reminded that you can now dial NHS 111 from anywhere in the health board’s catchment area to access the Out of Hours service and NHS Direct Wales – making it easy to get the advice, support or treatment that is right for you, all in one place. It’s free to call and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. NHS 111 call handlers are specially trained to recognise whether there is a threat to life, so if you do have a medical emergency you’ll be put straight through to the ambulance service. Otherwise, you’ll be asked a series of questions and, depending on the urgency of your condition, you’ll get a call back from an experienced healthcare professional – such as a nurse, GP, Pharmacist or Advanced Paramedic Practitioner to advise you on what to do.
We’re also signposting people towards COMMUNITY PHARMACIES, which can see and treat people with minor ailments and injuries and avoid them having to go to their GP or A&E department.
The COMMON AILMENTS SERVICE covers 27 conditions whereby a Pharmacist can assess and provide medication at no charge, if suitable, without the need for a prescription. The service allows patients to seek advice or treatment from a participating Community Pharmacy, rather than their GP, for a defined list of ailments, which includes: Indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea, piles, hay fever, had lice, teething, nappy rash, colic, chicken pox, threadworms, sore throat, athlete’s foot, eye infections, intertrigo, conjunctivitis, mouth ulcers, cold sores, acne, dry skin, dermatitis, verruca, back pain, in-growing toenails, vaginal thrush, oral thrush and scabies.
Patients in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are also being urged to use the Health Board’s TRIAGE AND TREAT service in participating Community Pharmacies if they have a low-level injury or illness. The types of injuries, which can be treated under this service are minor abrasions, superficial cuts and wounds, sprains and strains, eye complaints such as sand in the eye, removal of items from the skin such as a splinter or shell and minor burns including sunburn. They will assess your injury or symptom and make a decision as to whether they can ‘treat’ you there or if you need to seek treatment from another healthcare professional. If the injury is too serious to be treated in the pharmacy you will be given advice about where to go.
Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “What people may not realise is that that we have dedicated schemes in place at a number of participating Community Pharmacies which are designed to help patients with low level injuries or illnesses, for which you might otherwise have gone to your local GP. If you have a low-level injury or illness, and if your Pharmacy provides a Common Ailments or Triage and Treat service, then I would highly recommend you check in the first instance to see if they can treat you or provide you with the advice you need. By Choosing Well in this way you can help to ease pressure on our GP surgeries so that patients with more serious illnesses can be seen more quickly.”
Our INFECTION PREVENTION specialists are also reminding people not to visit patients in hospitals and care homes if they have been feeling unwell, in order to limit the spread of conditions such as Norovirus and diarrhoea and vomiting (D&V).
Mel Jenkins, Senior Nurse in Infection Prevention, added: “Illnesses such as diarrhoea and vomiting can pass from one person to another very easily. I would urge people who are feeling unwell or have been in contact with someone who has these symptoms NOT to visit patients in hospital at this time as viruses can be serious for sick and vulnerable patients.”
And with the Christmas period fast approaching, health professionals across Wales are urging all those eligible to have their FLU VACCINE as soon as possible, to help them and our hospitals stay flu-free throughout the winter.
Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “People can be seriously ill with influenza so it is vital that those most at risk take advantage of the free vaccine. Influenza can be a life-threatening illness for people who are at risk due to their age, an underlying health problem, or because they are pregnant. Sadly, influenza kills people in Wales every year. A flu vaccination is the best way to protect against it, so I call on each and every person in the Hywel Dda region including all our own staff to join us in helping prevent the spread of this virus by getting vaccinated and help make our local community a safer place to live this winter.”
Joe Teape, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations at Hywel Dda added: “The pressures typically faced by our busy teams during the winter months are already well-documented, but what the public don’t see is the knock-on effect that this has on patients with most urgent needs.
“At this time of the year our frontline services rely on people making the right decisions about the level of care they need. If you attend a busy A&E department with an illness that could be treated by a community pharmacist, for example, then this can create disruption and further pressure down the line and lead to delays in treatment for people with urgent care needs.
“The winter period is always a long and challenging one for the NHS, so I would like to encourage people to do their utmost to Choose Well and help us ensure that only those most in need of emergency or specialist care can receive it.”
Clinical Director for Unscheduled Care, Consultant Jeremy Williams, added: “Many people who come to our emergency departments are very sick and are attending appropriately. However, it’s also true that some people have less severe conditions, which would be better assessed and treated by other health care providers.
“Often, if they used one of our community healthcare services, for example, they would be cared for appropriately and likely much more quickly than in our emergency units. As well as helping people to be seen in the quickest time possible, this would ultimately help us to save lives.”