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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.

Christmas 2020 will feel a little different for us all this year. You may be celebrating in a safe way with a small number of people in your ‘Christmas bubble’. Alternatively if you are more vulnerable, you may be staying at home on your own or remaining with the people in your individual household, rather than seeing friends and family face-to-face.

This year 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. 

Dr Chandler, a local GP partner at French Weir Health Centre 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 at all 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 NHS 111 who can provide advice over the phone and direct you to the best place for the care that you need.”

Shelagh Meldrum, Chief Nurse at Yeovil Hospital explained,

“You can help us care for those with the most urgent needs by carefully choosing the right service this winter. In a serious or life-threatening medical emergency, you can call 999 or attend your local emergency department. For most other illnesses or minor injuries you can call 111 to be signposted to the most appropriate service.

“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.”

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, have a free NHS flu vaccination if you are eligible.
  • Check your regular medication and get repeat prescriptions in plenty of time before the holidays.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

There is a direct link between our physical and mental health. We know that this year has had a significant impact on people’s physical and mental wellbeing, and people may continue to feel the impact of this throughout the festive season. How we feel can change from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour. It is important to get help for our mental health – just like we would for our physical health:

  • The Five Ways to Wellbeing can help you remember and learn how to look after your wellbeing.
  • The Every Mind Matters website has lots of simple steps you can follow to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
  • Somerset Mindline which provides people with a safe space to talk, has increased the opening hours of its phone line. If you are concerned about how you are feeling, please contact Somerset Mindline – 01823 276 892 (Monday-Friday 9am-11pm and Saturday-Sunday 8pm-11pm).
  • If you’re elderly and on your own this Christmas you can also contact The or phone 0800 4 70 80 90; a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people.

Jane Yeandle, Service Director for Mental Health & Learning Disabilities at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust said,

“We have seen the increased impact that this year has had on people’s mental health, but for those that may be struggling, there is lots of support available to you in Somerset that will be accessible over the holidays. Independent support lines are free for people of all ages to contact, should you wish to speak to someone.  For those that need extra support, our services such as talking therapies are available and here to help.”

Dr Lorna Stewart, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust added,

“Many aspects of our lives have been impacted this year, including many festivals from all of our faiths, and the Christmas festive season is no exception.  It’s important to look after yourself, both physically and emotionally, but also important to look out for other people. Everyone’s experience of this year has been different and some people may be struggling, feeling low, isolated or worried about their loved ones. Please take the time to check in on friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbours and to signpost them to various helplines and support services if they need them.”

Further information