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Appointment with a GP. You can see your pharmacist first

Try your pharmacist first this winter, say doctors

With the weather having turned colder, and even snow appearing, people are recommended to seek advice from their pharmacist at the first signs of a winter illness, even if it is just a cough or cold. But if you do need the doctor, extra appointments are being made available.

GP surgeries are particularly stretched at this time of year so you may be doing yourself a favour, as well as shortening the GP queue, by popping down to the local chemist first. They may be able to help you there and then.

Dr Mohini Parmar, who is a local GP and also chairs the Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “At the first sign of a cough or cold, it’s worth asking your high street pharmacist for advice. If they can’t help you, they’ll be able to refer you to a service that can.”

Some pharmacies will be open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day. Check here for details of pharmacies and opening times.

Need to see a GP or nurse over the festive period?

If you do need to see a doctor or nurse, extra appointments are being made available over Christmas and even on New Year’s Day.

In addition to normal opening times, GPs and nurses are offering patients appointments in the evening (6.30-8pm), at weekends (8am-8pm) and bank holidays (8am-8pm).

You can book these additional appointments by calling your GP practice – or NHS 111 if your own practice is closed. Appointments might be accessible at your own GP practice or, otherwise, at an alternative nearby GP surgery.

Not too late for flu vaccine

If you are eligible for a free flu vaccine, it is not too late – you can contact your GP practice or pharmacist to organise it.

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to the following groups of people who are at risk:

  • Those who are 65 years of age or over
  • Pregnant women
  • People with certain medical conditions
  • People living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • People that receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if their carer falls ill.

The nasal spray flu vaccine is offered in GP practices to children aged two and three.

Taking extra care in the cold

Older people can be more susceptible to developing serious health problems when it is cold outside so they are reminded to think about keeping their houses warm and staying active. Residents are also asked to keep an eye on elderly neighbours in the cold weather.

Dr Parmar added: “We recommend that people with an underlying health condition like bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, stroke or kidney disease; or who are aged 65 or over, take extra care in the cold weather.”

Exposure to cold indoor or outdoor temperatures increases blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia. Cold temperatures can also make blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. In addition, cold can also affect the respiratory system, which reduces the lungs’ ability to fight off infection explaining why lower temperatures are linked with bronchitis and pneumonia.

There is more information on how to stay well over the winter online.

Register online

To make things more convenient you could register for GP online services to book appointments and order your repeat prescriptions – from a smartphone, tablet or computer.

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