Look after your health this winter: Where to go for help and advice

Look after your health this winter: As the cold weather draws in, more of us are likely to become ill, and there are plenty of ways the NHS can help…

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If you fall ill, the NHS is here to help you. Whether it’s a respiratory problem, such as a cold or flu or you’ve had a fall and broken a bone or bruised yourself, there’s a service available to help you.

There is a wide range of options for advice and treatment by different health services and professionals, such as nhs.uk, NHS 111 and community pharmacies, and knowing which one you need can help you find the right type of care.

So, what are your options if you are feeling unwell?

When something’s wrong, we often call our GP or head to A&E, but that’s not always best

LOG ON TO NHS.UK

For information and advice on health conditions, symptoms, healthy living and medicines, nhs.uk is a great place to start. Not only does it include the latest health advice, it also answers many common questions.

CONTACT NHS 111

Whether you call, go online or use the app, NHS 111 is your friend when you’ve got an urgent but non-life-threatening health concern and you’re not sure what to do.

It is available 24/7 and is staffed by trained healthcare advisers, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists and paramedics.

When you contact them, they will ask you a series of questions about your health problem so they can direct you to the right care.

That might mean reassuring you that there is nothing to worry about or, if it’s more serious, they can book you in to be seen at your local urgent-care centre or other local service you need to consult. They can also send you an ambulance should they think your condition is serious or life-threatening or send you to A&E.

In many cases, NHS 111 can help you without referring you to another service.

You can also find this service online via the website 111.nhs.uk or via a link in the NHS app.

POP INTO YOUR LOCAL PHARMACY

Local pharmacy teams are a fantastic source of advice and treatment for minor illness.

They have had extensive training in the use of medicines and are experienced in dealing with all kinds of minor illnesses, so know exactly how to get you the help you need. They’ll be able to advise you on the best course of treatment for your problem, whether it’s an upset tummy, a slight rash or flu.

Before giving you any over-the-counter tablets, pharmacists are able to take into account any other medication you’re on to make sure you get the one that’s right for you.

Many of us live within a few hundred metres of a pharmacy so it’s an easy and convenient way to get advice and treatment quickly, especially as many are open late and on bank holidays. No appointments are needed – simply walk in and ask to speak to someone.

Don’t wait for things to get worse before seeking help – nip an illness in the bud by popping in. And don’t worry – if they’re concerned, they may advise you to see your GP or head to A&E depending on your symptoms.

‘People come back again and again, so they feel safe with the advice’

Pharmacist Jitu Malde has been using his wealth of experience to help keep his local community healthy for more than 50 years.

‘At this time of year, we mainly see flu and cold symptoms,’ says Jitu. ‘We can do the flu vaccines, advise patients on how to manage colds and flu, and make sure they’re well prepared – especially the elderly.

‘And if they can’t come to collect their medicines, we can deliver.’

Jitu is a popular and familiar face in the Kanari Pharmacy in Fulham, south-west London. The pharmacy also offers a range of private services. 

Popular community pharmacist: Jitu Malde treats everything from cuts and falls to sickly infants, and says his pharmacy Kanari has a policy not to try to sell things but to figure out what’s wrong

They can also help anyone with a headache or pulled muscle by giving the right painkillers, and help out with minor cuts and scrapes.

‘We get people coming in with bloody fingers after preparing Christmas meals with sharp knives,’ he says. ‘We clean it, patch it up and if they need stitches, tell them to go to A&E.’

Jitu also goes the extra mile to help his customers. ‘We have a policy here not to try to sell things but to figure out what’s wrong and alleviate our customers’ anxiety.

‘We give them time, talk about the possibilities and what they’re already doing and if they’re doing something wrong, we point it out. Simple things, but it helps them a lot.

‘They come again and again so I presume they feel safe with our advice.’

SEEK HELP FROM YOUR GP PRACTICE

If you have a serious health concern, contact your GP surgery. Your GP team comprises a range of healthcare professionals, such as nurses and physios as well as GPs, who can help you get the treatment and care you need.

This means that when you contact your surgery for an appointment, a GP may not be the best person to help you, and you may be referred to someone else.

It’s important to tell the receptionist what you need help with so that they can give you an appointment with the right person.

They are trained to know who can offer the most appropriate care for your particular issue. They might book you in with a nurse for a smear test, a pharmacist for a medication review or a physiotherapist if you have aches and strains.

Receptionists may ask you some questions about what you need help with and any symptoms you have. The information will ensure that you get help from the right medical professiona

‘Our range of services is constantly developing’

When they pop into their local pharmacy, customers are often surprised by just how many services they provide, says pharmacist Sanjeev Panesar.

‘The services we can offer are constantly developing,’ says Sanjeev. ‘Many now offer stop smoking services and sexual-health services, which could include emergency contraception.’

At the Pan Pharmacy in Sheldon, Birmingham, where Sanjeev works, they offer an extended-care service, a range of private services and health checks.

Sanjeev Panesar of Pan Pharmacy in Birmingham offers quick and easy help and advice

‘We offer blood pressure checks to patients who are at risk or over the age of 40. Picking up high blood pressure early could reduce your risk of a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack.’

Pan Pharmacy is an important part of the community, helping people from all walks of life.

‘As a pharmacist you need a very broad knowledge base and you’ve got to look for red flags for when something might be wrong and a patient might need to be referred to, for example, a GP surgery or an optician,’ says Sanjeev.

‘The pharmacy is an excellent complement to other health services. You can walk in or you can phone. It’s quick, easy and accessible and we will be able to advise very quickly whether we can help you.

‘If we can’t, we can signpost you to the right person.’

*To find your nearest pharmacy, go to nhs.uk/find-a-pharmacy and to access NHS 111 online go to 111nhs.uk or use the NHS app

■ This article is part of a paid-for partnership with HM Government 

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