The Health and Social Care Board are asking for public support during this difficult winter. Health and Social Care services are now facing unprecedented pressures in the face of a global pandemic, combined with traditional winter pressures. 

Sharon Gallagher, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board said "Our Health and Social Care Service is under huge strain. And yes, I know this seems to happen nearly every year, but believe me when I tell you that Covid-19 has put immeasurable pressures on services and on our dedicated staff. The evidence is already clear for everyone to see with many hospitals working beyond full capacity. The ambulances parked outside some of our hospitals in recent days painted the starkest of pictures. 

Photo by B Boy from FreeImages

"As demand for hospital care increases, the capacity of our system to deal with it is being stretched. There is a lot of really good work underway to address the many challenges being led by ED consultants and GPs, in partnership with service users and the wider community, but these will take some time to roll out and bed in."

Phone First

Speaking about an initiative to help tackle the pressure services are under Ms Gallagher said "One of the new initiatives is the ‘Phone First’ service which is in operation across the Southern Trust and will be extended to other areas in the New Year. 

"The new service provides clinical advice by the phone to people who have an illness or injury which requires urgent treatment but is not life threatening and who are considering travelling to Emergency Departments (EDs). Patients are then directed to the right care, first time, helping them stay safe, and save time."

This is only one of a number of actions being taken to tackle the pressures services are facing. The public can also help out via measures below.

Choose the Right Service. 

Emergency Departments offer specialist care to those who are seriously ill or injured and to those whose life is at risk. For other conditions, please consider other services, including Urgent Care Centres (which are now running in RVH in Belfast and Downe Hospitals), Minor Injury Units, GP Out of Hours, or your own GP.  Pharmacists now also have additional services in place and can also offer advice and treatment for common conditions and refer patients to other healthcare professionals as appropriate. A range of common illnesses such as aches and pains, colds and upset stomachs can be treated with over the counter medicines and plenty of rest. For further advice to go WWW.NIDIRECT.GOV.UK

Help us Help You. 

Our hospitals are currently under significant pressure with very ill patients waiting for hospital beds. To help us, we ask patients who are deemed fit to be discharged to a community setting to accept a bed offered to them by HSC Trusts and for their families to support the discharge.

Mind Your Head 

It’s really important to take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing especially at this difficult time. If you are concerned about your physical or emotional wellbeing, you should contact your GP. If you are in emotional distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. For further information and resources that can help, go to WWW.MINDINGYOURHEAD.INFO

Follow the Covid-19 Public Health Advice

Reduce your contacts, wash your hands, cover your face and keep your distance, and take sensible steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. You will be contacted when it is your turn to get a Covid -19 vaccination - which is a vital intervention in fighting the spread of the infection and saving lives. 

Help limit the spread – make sure you self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19, and use digital self-trace to enable your contacts to be alerted. If you are a close contact of a case, you should also self-isolate.

Get the flu jab. 

For most people flu is a very unpleasant illness, but in some cases and for those in ‘at risk’ groups it can be very dangerous and sometimes fatal. If you are eligible, get the flu jab to help protect you and those around you.

You support is vital at this critical time.

For further information on HSC services and advice over the Christmas and New Year period go to:- WWW.HSCBOARD.HSCNI.NET
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