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Use NHS 111 to get the right healthcare this winter

Doctors are urging people to use the free NHS 111 phone service to get the right care and advice this winter.

The number of people with flu and other winter-related conditions is putting hospital and GP services under strain, so people are being asked to use other services where possible. 

Dr Mike Haugh, urgent care lead for South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “With health services becoming increasingly busy, we’d ask that people only visit Torbay Hospital’s Emergency Department, also known as A&E, if they have a serious or life-threatening condition.

“The fastest source of advice and support is the freephone service NHS 111, which is available 24 hours a day.

“Callers speak to a trained adviser who is supported by healthcare professionals, and then they are directed to the local service that can help you best.”

When to use NHS 111
Call 111 if:

  • you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency
  • you think you need to go to A&E or need another NHS urgent care service
  • you don't know who to call or you don't have a GP to call
  • you need health information or reassurance about what to do next

NHS 111 advisors will either direct callers to the nearest minor injuries unit, get a doctor to contact the caller, or tell them to go to A&E if necessary.
If the advisers think an ambulance is needed, they will immediately arrange for one to be sent.

Dr Haugh added: “For less urgent health needs, people should contact their GP or local pharmacist in the usual way. For immediate, life-threatening emergencies, it is important to call 999.”

Doctors are also reminding people to look after themselves and others in the colder weather.

Simple things like checking on a neighbour, keeping warm and making sure cabinets are stocked with over-the-counter medicines are some ways people can avoid having to use stretched NHS services.

Tips to help you stay well this winter
Keep yourself warm – heat your home to least 18 degrees C or (65F) if you can. In significantly cold weather, if it is not possible to keep the whole house warm, people should try to keep one main room and the bedroom warm. The best way to stay warm is to wear several small layers of clothing rather than a few thick clothing items.

If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious. It is useful to have a well-stocked medicine cabinet so you can be prepared for the most common illnesses.

Always take your prescribed medicines as directed, or speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have stopped taking them or started taking them differently.

Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over winter. People who are over 65 and live on their own are advised to arrange for someone to call to their house or to telephone at least once a day.