Winter is a difficult time for our healthcare services, and this winter looks set to be no different as hospitals and GP waiting rooms become overcrowded. Staff shortages and a high number of admissions means there are a lack of beds and patients are being turned away. You can do your bit to help by using Christmas health services more wisely this festive season to help keep appointments free for those who need urgent care.
Hospitals facing ‘overcrowding’ risk this Christmas
The NHS produces a weekly report, and the first report of the winter period shows that nearly 95% of beds are currently occupied. With anything over 85% being deemed ‘unsafe’, these figures pose a genuine concern for hospitals and health services, especially given the fact that winter temperatures have been relatively mild for now. It has meant that 8 A&E departments in England have had to divert ambulances elsewhere, and face delays with receiving patients for those they were able to accept.
NHS staff are working hard to provide care to patients during this busy period, but with funding not due to arrive until next year and continuing failure to meet targets – it’s likely that services will continue to face the strain over the coming weeks.
What can you do to improve Christmas health services?
With health services already facing overcrowding early in the winter period, you can do your bit to help ease the pressure on the NHS this winter. From self-care at home to taking better care of your health, some of the ways you can use Christmas health services more wisely this year include:
When you’re stocking your cupboards with Christmas food and drink, remember to stock up on first aid essentials too. From painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol to bandages, plasters and burn aids – there are a lot of things you can do to make sure you’ve got what you need in case of minor illnesses and accidents over Christmas.
If you take prescription medication, make sure you’ve got enough to cover you through the Christmas period or get a repeat prescription now to help make sure you don’t need to make an emergency appointment.
Be wise with ambulances
In the first instance for urgent care, you should call 111, who can direct you to the appropriate health service for your needs. For serious symptoms and accidents, call 999 for an ambulance. Ambulances won’t help you get faster treatment, so learn when to call for an ambulance to help you get the right care over the winter period.
Take care of your health
The winter season is a time when your health can take a dip. Doing what you can to stay on top of your health such as eating well and exercising can help you ward off common illnesses and viruses. Meanwhile, make sure you get plenty of sleep to keep your energy levels up.
Be sensible when out and about
Many winter hospital admissions are due to accidents, and you can do your best to avoid them by practicing common sense and avoiding reckless behaviour. If you’re going to be drinking, leave the car elsewhere and make sure you have your journey home planned in advance. Wrap up warm when leaving the house and check the forecast regularly – if conditions look treacherous then staying at home is the more sensible option. Meanwhile, older people should be cautious to avoid slips, trips and falls. If you have elderly relatives or neighbours, make sure you check on them to ensure they’re ok.
The winter period is a busy one for health services, and by doing your bit to help – you can not only keep yourself and family safe during the festive season, but ease pressure on our Christmas health services too. Make sure you know where your out of hours services are and what they can do if you need urgent medical help this winter. Be safe, stay warm and enjoy the festive season.