Health and social care system colleagues are reminding people of how they can get physical and mental health help this winter at the right time and place.
There is a range of options available to ensure you get the appropriate care you need.
If you need urgent medical advice but it’s not a life-threatening emergency, you can contact NHS 111 First – either by dialling 111 or going online at 111.nhs.uk – to get information on the best available care for you. You will be assessed and, if appropriate, booked into the John Radcliffe or Horton Emergency Department for treatment.
Contacting NHS 111 First provides people with an attendance window for treatment and means that social distancing can be maintained in emergency departments and other healthcare settings, a really important way of preventing COVID-19 transmissions.
If it is determined that an emergency department is not the most appropriate place to get help, you may receive advice on:
- visiting a local Minor Injuries Unit or First Aid Unit
- visiting your local pharmacy, dentist, optician, or your own GP
- how to self-care if required.
Contacting NHS 111 is also now the way to gain access to 24/7 mental health support.
Anyone concerned about their mental health or that of a loved one can call NHS 111 at any time, day or night. Callers will be put through to Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s dedicated team of mental health experts to give you the help you need.
You are still able to contact 999 and attend an emergency department if you are experiencing a medical emergency, but we would urge people who do not need emergency care to contact NHS 111 First to receive the most appropriate, timely, and convenient treatment.
Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s critically important for all our safety at this time of year that people choose the right health services for their needs. Winter is a busy time for the NHS, and especially so with the impact of COVID-19.
“NHS 111 First is designed to improve outcomes and experiences for our patients in healthcare settings, and also help us to maintain social distancing in our Emergency Departments and ensure that people receive the right care in the right place.”
Dr Rob Bale, Clinical Director at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “If you have got any concerns, please call NHS 111 to speak to our mental health professionals. We’re here and ready to listen. The helpline is open round the clock to support adults and children who need advice urgently, and ensure they get the right help at the right time.”
Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, GP and urgent care lead, said: “We would urge people to attend emergency departments in an emergency only – GPs, pharmacists, and Minor Injuries Units can all provide support for several conditions and injuries.
“NHS 111 can also put people in touch with medical professionals and signpost people to the most appropriate support, as well as book people into A&E if that’s what’s needed.”
Colleagues across the health and social care system are also working hard to deliver a ‘home first’ approach, which aims for people to be back at home as quickly and safely as possible after being in hospital.
Karen Fuller, Deputy Director for Adult Services at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Nobody wants to be in hospital longer than they need to be, and very often people’s homes can be the most appropriate and comfortable place for them to return to.
“We are also working within the Oxfordshire system to explore all opportunities to enable people to return home, which includes working closely with family members and our voluntary sector partners to achieve this.
“Ultimately, we want as many people as possible to enjoy their Christmas in familiar surroundings at home, and not in a hospital bed.”
Self-care is the best choice for minor illnesses and injuries – a range of common winter ailments can be treated at home with a well-stocked medicine cabinet. Having a winter plan – such as having flu and cold remedies, keeping your home warm, and looking out for neighbours – can also be beneficial.
Local pharmacies can give advice on several conditions, such as coughs, headaches, upset stomachs, and skin conditions, as well as advise on stopping coughs and colds from getting worse.
Minor Injuries Units operate at three of the county’s community hospitals – at Abingdon, Witney and Henley. They have X-ray facilities and a range of specialists who can treat people for a range of injuries – from broken bones, severe sprains, deep cuts, eye injuries, minor head injuries, and minor burns and scalds.
First Aid Units are at Bicester, Wallingford, and Chipping Norton hospitals and offer the same multi-skilled teams as MIUs without X-ray facilities.