WITH winter fast approaching, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are once again urging residents to think local and use community healthcare services if they are ill or need non-urgent treatment.

Citizens are being urged to be Winter Wise by booking their flu jab early, visiting their local pharmacist for minor ailments, and making sure friends, family and neighbours are being well looked-after.

With demand on hospitals rising it is crucial that only those most in need of specialist or emergency care attend their local A&E.  Residents can play their part and help to ease the pressure on our hardworking clinical staff by Choosing Well and making sure they use the right healthcare options for their needs.

The Health Board has worked with the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, local authorities and the third sector to prepare for the busy period ahead with a winter plan. This is available on the health board’s website and sets out how the organisation is preparing to run services as smoothly as possible to ensure patients’ needs continue to be met 24 hours a day.

This year the health board is signposting people towards community pharmacies, which can see and treat people with minor ailments and avoid them having to go to their GP or A&E department.

The Common Ailments Service covers 26 conditions whereby a pharmacist can assess and provide medication at no charge, if suitable, without the need for a prescription.  The service allows patients to seek advice or treatment from a participating community pharmacy, rather than their GP, for a defined list of ailments.

Patients in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are also being urged to use the health board’s Triage and Treat service in participating community pharmacies if they have a low-level injury or illness, in a bid to free up pressure on busy A&E departments this winter.

With the Christmas period fast approaching, health professionals across Wales are urging all those eligible to have their flu vaccine as soon as possible, to help them and our hospitals stay flu-free throughout the winter.

And infection prevention specialists are reminding people not to visit patients in hospitals and care homes if they have been feeling unwell, in order to limit the spread of conditions such as Norovirus and flu.

Joe Teape, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “The pressures typically faced by our busy teams during the winter months are already well-documented, but what is not often seen is the knock-on effect that this has on patients with most urgent needs.

“At this time of the year our frontline services rely on patients making the right decisions about the level of care they need; if you attend a busy A&E department with an illness that could be treated by a community pharmacist, for example, then this can create disruption and further pressure down the line and lead to delays in treatment for people with urgent care needs.

“The winter period is always a long and challenging one for the NHS, so I would like to encourage people to do their utmost to Choose Well and help us ensure that only those most in need of emergency or specialist care can receive it.”

Clinical Director for Unscheduled Care, Consultant Jeremy Williams, added: “Many people who come to our emergency departments are very sick and are attending appropriately.  However, it’s also true that some people have less severe conditions which would be better assessed and treated by other health care providers.

“Often, if they used one of our community healthcare services, for example, they would be cared for appropriately and likely much more quickly than in our emergency units. As well as helping people to be seen in the quickest time possible, this would ultimately help us to save lives.”

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