‘We’ve got a responsibility to help the NHS in winter’
Wendy Martin, executive lead nurse, midwife and quality at NHS Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, explains all the alternative services available for patients this winter…
The nights are getting longer and the temperatures colder. Yes, winter is fast approaching and with it will come seasonal illnesses including coughs, colds and flu.
The NHS and all its different services always see an increase in demand at winter. GP practices are full and A&E attendances generally rise.
But it is important to remember that A&E is not necessarily the right or best place to go this winter.
Of course, if you are seriously ill or you have a life threatening situation, you should call 999 and seek emergency treatment.
But, especially at winter and to protect our NHS services, it is vital that patients discover, learn about and use the whole range of alternative services available to most appropriately meet their needs.
One way to do that is by downloading our new ASAPLincs app or visiting the website – www.asaplincs.nhs.uk
ASAPLincs has been built using the very latest attendance data from the county’s emergency departments and focuses on common minor ailments that people should not present to A&E with.
It will tell you where the most appropriate treatment can be found as well as using your location to show you the nearest place too.
If appropriate, the app can also call 999 or 111 for you.
Just some of the alternatives which are also included in ASAPLincs are pharmacies, self-care, GP practices and NHS 111.
Pharmacists play a very important role in helping to provide quality health care to patients.
They’re experts in medicines. They use their clinical expertise to advise you on the more common winter illnesses. Pharmacists can help you with over the counter medicines for minor ailments.
GPs can also help this winter and there are a range of health care professionals working in a GP practice.
They each have different skill sets and can see patients with a range of different needs. It may not be a GP you need to see, as that is not always necessary.
Don’t forget, all patients in the Lincolnshire West area now have the ability to book routine appointments until 8pm on weekdays and at certain times at weekends as part of the extended access service.
Self-care is another important way of helping to ease the pressures on our NHS this winter. It is a vitally important element of health care and is often overlooked by many people.
It is about knowing how to live healthier lives by changing habits and making better lifestyle choices. It is also about knowing what services are available in your local community to help with this. Locally, these can include Active Lincolnshire or the Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service (CVS). It is also about being prepared with a first aid kit and well stocked medicine cabinet to enable you to treat yourself those minor ailments we often see in winter.
Do you have close family, friends and neighbours that would benefit from a visit from you to check they are OK and have everything they need as we go into winter? This includes information on how they best access help from health and social care professionals.
If you are entitled to a flu jab, have you had it yet? It is important to get it sorted now to give you protection over the cold winter period.
Speak to your GP practice to find out if you or someone you care for is eligible.
Remember, there is also NHS 111. If you have an urgent medical need, but it isn’t an emergency, you can call NHS111.
You can get advice either for yourself or someone you are caring for.
They can advise you on self-care, or signpost you to the most appropriate service available. We also have the Clinical Assessment Service in Lincolnshire, accessed via NHS111, where a local clinician will deal with your call if clinically necessary.
I do hope you have a healthy winter and please do try and use the appropriate alternative services to A&E, as outlined here, if you do need medical help and it is not an emergency.