GP's and health professionals across Somerset are urging residents to help themselves and their local hospitals over the Christmas period by thinking first and not visiting busy district hospital A&E departments with only minor injuries or illness.

Dr Ed Ford, a Minehead GP and Chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Remember, you can help yourself and the NHS when you get the right treatment for your level of illness or injury.

“If you only have a minor illness or ailments then visit your local pharmacist.

"They can help with expert advice and over-the-counter remedies.

" If you need urgent medical advice but it is not a life threatening emergency then telephone NHS 111.

"Their call handlers can advise you anything from where to find an emergency dentist to getting you an out-of-hour’s doctor and if you are eligible and have not yet had you winter flu vaccination, please get one.”

Here are some treatment options if you or a family member becomes ill over the Christmas period.

Have the flu vaccination:

You are eligible for the winter flu vaccination if you are over 65 years old, a child or adult living with a long-term health condition, are pregnant or have young children. Having the flu vaccination can provide you and your family with a reduced risk of catching the flu this winter. See:

Self care:

Having a few basic items in your bathroom medicine cabinet can save you time and effort should you become ill. Items like paracetamol, a bandage, sticking plasters, and antiseptic cream or indigestion tablets. If troublesome symptoms persist or worsen see your GP. There is more advice online at:

Visit your local pharmacists:

If you feeling unwell and need advice visit your pharmacy. You don’t need an appointment and they can advise on the best medicines for many common illnesses. You can find your nearest pharmacist by searching online at: or by telephoning 111.

Extended access to GP services:

GP Practices in Somerset now offer urgent appointments into the early evening (between 6.30pm and 8pm) and weekends. Registered patients who need an urgent appointment must book an appointment in advance by telephoning their GP practice from Monday to Friday and between the hours of 8.00am and 6.30pm.

Call NHS 111:

Telephone 111 when you need medical advice or information quickly, but it’s not a 999 life threatening emergency. Calls are free from mobiles and landlines to this 24/7 service.

You should also call 111 if you become ill after your GP surgery has closed and need urgent advice or medical help. You will be assessed, given advice and directed straight away to the local service that will help you best.

Somerset GP urgent care service:

Should you become ill after your GP surgery has closed, ring your surgery’s telephone number and listen to the answer phone message or telephone NHS 111 for advice.

Remember to re-order any routine prescription medicines from your GP Practice before the Christmas holiday (before the Friday 21 December 2018)

Community hospital minor injury unit:

There are Minor Injury Units at community hospitals in Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, Chard, Frome, Glastonbury, Minehead and Shepton Mallet.

If your injury is not serious you can get help from a minor injuries unit (MIU) rather than a busy hospital A&E department. By doing so you allow A&E staff to concentrate on people with serious and life-threatening conditions and save yourself a potentially long wait.

To check your local MIU’s location and opening hours telephone 111 or go to:

A and E:

Hospital A&E or the 999 ambulance service will be treating patients with life threatening and emergency conditions. If you or a family member are experiencing chest pain, serious loss of blood or have become unconscious then telephone 999 for an ambulance immediately.

Health advice online:

For information on how you and your family can stay well this Christmas and New Year holiday visit .