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Choose the right service to support under pressure healthcare professionals

14th January 2022

The entire Health and Social Care system across Northern Ireland is continuing to grapple with the effects of Coronavirus.

If you are unwell and need care, you can do your bit to support our dedicated healthcare professionals by choosing the service that is most appropriate for your symptoms. By doing so, you will be on your way to getting better quicker and taking pressure off staff.

The Emergency Department should only be used for sudden and acute illness or severe trauma. There are a range of other healthcare services available to help you such as the Phone First service, Minor Injuries Units, GPs, an Urgent Care Centre or Pharmacy First from Community Pharmacies.

Self-care is the best choice to treat most minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. Community pharmacists can offer advice and treatment for a wide range of common conditions such as aches and pains, colds, upset stomachs and sore throats and, if necessary, pharmacists can refer patients to other healthcare professionals as appropriate.

There is also the Community Pharmacy led “Pharmacy First” service, which allows patients to have a consultation virtually or in a private area with their local community pharmacist for a range of everyday health conditions.

Each month over 10,000 consultations take place in our community pharmacies. Patients can call into a community pharmacy for a consultation, but for infection control purposes, it is preferable if they ring first for advice.  They can then have a consultation with the pharmacist over the phone, a video call or go to the pharmacy in person. All patients registered with a GP in Northern Ireland can use this service, with the exception of patients living in nursing or residential homes

Remote consultations will also be available for those who are vulnerable, and those isolating due to COVID-19, who are unable to get medical advice for winter and COVID care.

If you require care when your GP surgery is closed, telephone your nearest GP Out-of-Hours provider. GP Out-of-Hours services operate from 6pm each weekday evening and 24 hours on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Don’t leave it until the last minute to order your repeat prescriptions from your GP – you should order these at least 7 days in advance of when they are due. Please remember to collect any repeat medicines from your community pharmacy before the weekend or a public holiday.

GP OoH can only provide repeat prescriptions in exceptional circumstances. Plan ahead. If you can, sign up to your GP practice’s online service for repeat prescriptions and if you do run out of your usual medicines, please contact your regular pharmacy who may be able to help.

For information about accessing health and social care services please visit – Health services | nidirect