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Winter illnesses? Let’s recap on all the amazing services we have available to us

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NHS services

Autumn/Winter, the time of year when sniffles are everywhere, and illnesses are rife. In my family alone over the last few weeks we have had high temperatures, colds, coughs and a urine infection. Luckily all have been fine with a little R&R (and a short course of antibiotics for the last one) but would you know who to speak to for different illnesses and/or did you even know there are different options?

We have a fantastic medical support network in the UK and are lucky to have them. They are however very stretched and even more so in the winter. This month I wanted to take the opportunity to recap on the different services/support networks available so you can find the best source close to you to help if needed:

Go to A&E or call 999 when:

  • The casualty is unconscious or unresponsive
  • The casualty is not breathing or has no pulse
  • The casualty has suffered a severe allergic reaction
  • The casualty has a seizure for the first time
  • Their breathing is not straightforward i.e. they are sucking in and out of their ribs or struggling to catch a breath
  • They are bleeding from an injury and it won’t stop after more than 10 minutes of pressure
  • They are choking
  • They are complaining of chest pain

Go to A&E if:

  • They have a severe or constant tummy ache
  • The casualty has burnt themselves badly
  • They have broken a bone
  • They have cut themselves so deeply that it will likely need a stitch or to be glued
  • The casualty has swallowed a foreign object (in children batteries in particular)
  • They are expressing suicidal or self-harm thoughts

Call your GP if:

  • They have ear pain which is lasting more than two (2) days
  • They have taken an accidental overdose of medication
  • They have severe tummy pain that comes and goes
  • They have vomiting and diarrhoea
  • The casualty is wheezing when breathing

Call 111 or see your community pharmacist if:

  • They have pink or red eyes
  • They have ear ache for less than 2 days
  • They have a cough or runny nose and/or hayfever symptoms

There are obviously a large number of things that could be wrong with you or someone you are looking after which haven’t been mentioned in the list above. However, as a general rule think, only call 999 if it is a medical emergency.

999 and 111 (the emergency and non-emergency helplines) do have call waiting times but, in the case of 999 do stay on the line to get help if it is that medical emergency and they will get someone to you as soon as possible.

Other things to think about:

  • Does your GP surgery have an app you can use to book online appointments? It is there to provide more doctors appointments for people who need them, particularly when doctor surgeries are busy.
  • Have you spoken to your local pharmacist about problems before? The pharmacy is a great place to go to get support on non-emergency ailments. The pharmacist can advice on many different illnesses and issues and is often a great place to start before calling your GP.
  • If your problem is taking place outside of working hours 111 is the number to call for support. If needed they will direct you to an urgent care unit with 111 bookable appointments and/or get you in touch with an out of hours doctor for the support you need. Be ready to wait on the phone a little for this support, but if needed is definitely the place to go.
  • If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and needs support (non-emergency level), you can call 111 and go to option 2. Other resources available to support with your mental health include the 24/7 Samaritans helpline and 24/7 Shout text service.

As a final point, I would like to say, I know the services are busy but if you are worried about something don’t leave it. It is better to get things checked and sorted early than have them get worse and need more treatment later on. Trust your gut and use the wonderful resources we have available wisely to get the most out of our amazing NHS.

If you would like to learn more about supporting someone with general life saving skills why don’t you come and join one of my regular bookable courses or book a private course for your team. You can email me at  

 If you would like more hints and tips on all things basic first aid, head over to my Instagram page: or

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