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Health and care organisations across Somerset are urging local residents to prepare now to ensure you stay safe and well this festive season.

As NHS teams across the county pull out all the stops to increase the capacity of our COVID-19 booster vaccination programme, it’s even more important that people are prepared, look after themselves and stay healthy, and if they do need help, to use healthcare services in the most appropriate way.

One of best things you can do is to ensure that you get your flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, both are safe and offer you, your family and those around you protection from these serious illnesses.

Michael Lennox CEO of Community Pharmacy Somerset said: “Self-care is often the best care, so plan ahead so you can treat minor illnesses at home, avoiding unnecessary trips to the doctor if possible. Make sure you have cold and flu medicines ready at home just in case you start to feel ill and that you have the prescriptions you need – especially over Christmas and New Year. If you do feel unwell and are unsure where to go for help, contact or call 111, who can provide advice online or over the phone and direct you to the best place for the care that you need.

“Our pharmacies in Somerset will be open in the run up to the Christmas and New Year holidays, with an extensive opening rota on the public holiday days too.”

Matthew Bryant, chief operating officer (hospital services) at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The most important thing that you can do to stay safe and well this winter, is to get your COVID-19 vaccination, so please visit the National Booking Service online, or call 119 to check availability and book your slot as soon as possible.

“The NHS and social care services in Somerset continue to be very busy and all our teams are working extremely hard to ensure we continue to provide safe and compassionate care this winter. Please help us to care for those with the most urgent healthcare needs by carefully choosing the right service. If you are not in the right place, you are likely to have a long wait to be seen or you may be redirected to a more appropriate service.

 “If you need non-emergency medical advice contact NHS111 online or by phone.  For minor injuries and illnesses, you can visit a minor injuries unit and many common minor ailments can be treated by a local pharmacist or at home. 

“In a serious or life-threatening medical emergency, you should call 999 or attend your local emergency department.

“We are here for you if you need us this Christmas. Choosing the right service means you’ll get the right care, often more quickly. It also helps us ensure emergency care is available for those who need it most.”

Professor Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health for Somerset County Council, said:  “As we get closer to Christmas and begin to socialise a bit more, especially with people we may not have seen for a while, remember that this gives the virus a chance to spread more and so it is particularly important to protect ourselves and others. This festive season, we all need to keep on doing the small actions that make such a big difference, such as wearing face coverings when visiting busy indoor places and on public transport, letting fresh air indoors, regularly washing your hands and booking your booster when you are able.

“You should continue to take rapid lateral flow tests, particularly before going to work if you can’t work from home, going to places where you are likely to encounter people you don’t often meet, or visiting groups of friends or family members.

“Remember, if you feel unwell you should self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test.”

What you can do to prepare for Christmas:

We are urging the public to help prevent any need for emergency or urgent care and to care for their own wellbeing by following some simple advice:

If you haven’t already done so, book your 1st, 2nd, 3rd or booster COVID-19 vaccination on the National Booking System or look for walk in sites on the Grab a Jab site. Book a free NHS flu vaccination if you are eligible.

Check your regular medication and get repeat prescriptions in plenty of time before the holidays. You can use the NHS app for repeat prescriptions, health advice, book of cancel GP appointments and access to your COVID-19 vaccines pass.

GP surgeries A number of our GP practices are supporting the vaccination roll out against the threat of Omicron and the majority of their workforce will be delivering Covid-19 vaccines over the next two weeks. Patients should continue to contact their GP practice for urgent health advice, but for minor health concerns they should seek help from their local pharmacist. This will allow GPs to prioritise delivery of the biggest vaccination programme the country has seen.

If you do feel unwell, get help early before your condition worsens. You can seek advice from your local pharmacist or contact NHS 111, by phone or online, at any time of day or night. They will give you medical advice and care from relevant healthcare professionals – including nurses, emergency dentists, or GPs, depending on the situation.

Somerset pharmacy opening times including Christmas and bank holidays – Somerset pharmacies opening times

Minor injuries or minor illnesses can be treated Minor Injury Units (MIUs). There are seven across Somerset based at our community hospitals in Frome, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet, Chard, Bridgwater, Minehead and Burnham-on-Sea.   

MIUs can treat – broken bones, wounds, minor burns, minor illness, minor eye conditions, minor head injuries (unless on blood thinners), emergency contraception. 

DO NOT USE A MINOR INJURY UNIT FOR – chest pain, severe breathing problems, altered consciousness, overdoses, mental health issues, conditions usually managed by your GP or practice nurse. If you have symptoms of a heart attack, stroke or major injury call 999.

Make sure your first aid kit is well-stocked and that you have cold, flu and upset stomach remedies at home. Your local pharmacist can help.

For children’s health advice you can also download the HANDi App, available for Android phones on Google Play or on the App store for iPhone and iPad.

Look out for your friends, neighbours, loved ones and those who are most vulnerable and at risk from flu and COVID-19. Phone them to see how they are and offer to collect shopping or prescriptions if needed.

Keep your home warm and get your boiler serviced regularly. See the Public Health England leaflet ‘Keep Warm Keep Well’ for advice.

Keep active and exercise regularly. We often tend to over-indulge over the festive season, so try to get out for a 20 minute walk every day, do some exercise at home, or even some chair-based exercises if you are less mobile. Take a look at the suggestions on Get Fit for Free.

Have a list of emergency phone numbers handy by your phone.

If you need mental health support

If you are an adult or child living in Somerset and are concerned about your mental health, our Open Mental Health service is here to help 24 hours 7 days a week. Contact the team at Mindline Somerset on freephone 0800 138 1692 or locally on 01823 276892.