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Health Matters - NHS services at Christmas

Health Matters - NHS services at Christmas
12 December 2018

Dr Paul Bowen, clinical chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton

The last thing that people want is to be ill over the festive period but sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you are unfortunate enough to fall ill, the NHS is here to help.

For many people, self-care will be enough to manage winter illness over Christmas and New Year, and you can prepare for this by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet but, for those times when self-care isn’t an option, it’s important to know what services are available.

Urgent care services such as NHS 111, A&E and 999 will still be available but your pharmacy and GP opening times are likely to be different.

Thanks to the introduction of extended access in October, there are now appointments available in Eastern Cheshire on weekday evenings after 6.30pm and on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

You can make the most of the extended access appointments by ringing your local practice as usual and requesting an evening or weekend slot, the receptionist will then confirm the available times and location. The appointment might not be with your regular GP or nurse, or in your GP practice, but they’ll still be able to access your GP record with your permission.

As there is now weekend appointment provision, GP practices will only be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. On these days, a GP service is available at the Eastern Cheshire GP Out-of-Hours Service at Macclesfield Hospital, which can be accessed via NHS 111.

It is also important to remember that pharmacies will have limited opening times during the bank holidays. My advice is to order your medication from your GP surgery well in advance to prevent a stressful last-minute search for an open pharmacy. If you do find yourself needing medication urgently, a handful of pharmacies will still be open between 10am and 4pm on Christmas Day.

You can ring your local pharmacy to check if and when they’re open during the festive period, or ask them next time you pick up your prescription. Alternatively, you can click here.

Finally, I’d like to thank all the healthcare professionals who keep the NHS running during the Christmas period and throughout the year, working tirelessly to look after us while many of us are enjoying the festivities.