Local GPs are urging city residents to ‘Think First’ in a Southampton seasonal health campaign designed to help people get the right care faster during the busy winter period.
Bitterne GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Steve Townsend, said: “Our winter campaign gives clear information and advice on the steps people can take to get the care and treatment they need quickly.
Lots of people fall prey to seasonal illness in the winter when the NHS is under increased strain. Fortunately for most, their body's own defences will cure the illness and symptoms can usually be eased with over the counter medicines from a local pharmacy. The majority of winter illnesses like colds, flu and sickness bugs are caused by viruses and prescribed medication such as antibiotics are not effective at easing symptoms. If, however, you do need advice, it is important to get you to the right service, so we are encouraging people to Think First about what health service they need and if they think they need further advice to Phone NHS111 First to get the right care fast.”
Lead Pharmacist at the CCG, Julia Bowey said “ We want to show local people with seasonal illnesses and minor ailments that asking their pharmacist is often the best route if they need health advice quickly. Pharmacists train for five years and are the health specialist on your high street – no appointment necessary! Many are open for extended hours and there are several 100 hour pharmacies in the city (two in the City Centre, one in Millbrook and one in Bitterne) offering access to help advice and medication round the clock. We want to instil confidence about getting advice from pharmacists. Most city pharmacies offer the ability to discuss concerns in a private consultation room if required. Pharmacies really are a faster more convenient alternative to other health services if you have a minor ailment.”
Dr Townsend added: “ One of the other key service options we are promoting is NHS 111 - the gateway to the urgent care system. It provides health advice fast and will direct you to the right health service for your needs if you think you need further help. The service was launched in February 2013 and local feedback is good. Calls to 111 are free, and the service is available 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. The call advisers, supported by nurses and paramedics, can advise you about the most appropriate healthcare service for you. They can also make an out of hours doctors appointment or send an ambulance without delay if necessary. Our winter campaign shows people that 111 is a good first port of call if you aren’t sure what to do.
Taking simple steps like being prepared and keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet will also help prevent minor illnesses from putting a dampener on the festive fun. Dr Townsend explained: “Treating yourself first is the right option for problems such as coughs, colds, stomach upsets and hangovers,. It is also always useful to have infant medicines at hand if you have small children as they can cool a high temperature fast.”
Further advice on what to keep at home can be found on the NHS Choices website:www.nhs.uk/livewell/pharmacy/pages/yourmedicinecabinet.aspx.
The campaign is being complemented by a push to promote the city’s Minor Injuries Unit at the Royal South Hants Hospital which was re-launched with a new and expanded service in August.