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With Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday, people in Somerset are reminded that GP practices will be closed on Monday December 26, Tuesday December 27 and Monday January 2.

During this time there will be a wide range of local NHS services available. From pharmacies open on Christmas Day to NHS 111, which is open 24/7 every day, and a range of alternative services available. However, a little preparation before the festive break will help you stay safe and well and help reduce the pressure on our already strained NHS services and staff.

Dr Bernie Marden, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Somerset, said: “Medical help and advice remains available throughout the holiday period. With many parents aware of the increased rates in scarlet fever and Strep A, I urge them to visit NHS 111 online or by phone if they have any concerns about symptoms their child may be experiencing. “If you have an urgent medical concern when your GP is closed go to NHS 111 or call 111. Trained advisors can provide advice online or over the phone and direct you to the best place for the care that you need.

“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.

“COVID and flu remain prevalent, and cases will increase over the coming weeks as we spend more time indoors socialising. Vaccination offers the best protection both to yourself and those around you and everyone eligible is urged to take up the offer.”

Michael Lennox, CEO of Community Pharmacy Somerset, said: “Being prepared is undoubtedly the best course of action, such as by having the medicine cabinet basics at hand to deal with indigestion, hangovers and winter coughs and colds.

“Make sure you have enough prescription medication to last over the holidays, bearing in mind it takes time for your GP practice to process a repeat prescription request and for your pharmacy to dispense.

“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.”

Michael Paynter, a consultant nurse at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The demand for health and care in Somerset is at an all time high, so it’s more important than ever that we use the right service to meet our needs, helping to keep our emergency services free for those who need them.

“We have four large minor injuries units (MIU) in Somerset at the community hospitals in Bridgwater, Frome, Minehead and West Mendip (Glastonbury), which can treat a range of injuries and illnesses, such as broken bones, wounds, minor burns, minor illness, minor eye conditions, minor head injuries (unless on blood thinners) and emergency contraception. We also have three smaller MIUs at the community hospitals in Burnham-on-Sea, Chard and Shepton Mallet – those units are currently operating reduced opening hours – more details on”

What you can do to prepare for Christmas:

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 or cancel GP appointments and access to your COVID-19 vaccines pass.

Self-care – Many minor illnesses can be treated at home with basic medicines that are available from your local pharmacy or supermarket. Stocking up on essential medicines can help you avoid a trip to the GP or even A&E and can help you stay well in winter.

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 going to NHS 111 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.

Over the festive period GP practices are open on 28, 29 and 30 December. From the 3 January 2022 practices will be open as usual.

Somerset pharmacy opening times including Christmas and bank holidays can be found here.

Flu and COVID vaccination clinics are taking place and everyone eligible is urged to take up the offer. Visit the NHS Somerset for more information. COVID vaccination booking is now also available through the NHS app.

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. For opening times

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.