AHEAD of Christmas and New Year, people are reminded to plan ahead for their healthcare needs.

For anyone needing medical help over the holiday, NHS 111 online – 111.nhs.uk – is available to help, and will direct callers to the most appropriate health service for their needs. Those unable to go online can telephone 111.

The NHS region’s Medical Director for Primary Care, Dr Faisel Baig, said:“NHS 111 online will connect you with medical advice, the same as you can expect to receive by phoning 111. It will direct you to the most appropriate medical care for your needs, such as a GP, nurse or pharmacy consultation, or to an urgent walk-in treatment centre.

“Remember, you should still call 999 or go to the local A&E department in an emergency, when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.”

Dr Baig also reminds people to seek help and advice for non-urgent healthcare needs from their local community pharmacy.

“Pharmacists are highly qualified healthcare professionals and can help you in a range of ways like treating minor illnesses,” he said.

“Many will be open on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and you can search the NHS website www.nhs.uk to Find a pharmacy near you.”

Women in the North East and Yorkshire can get the contraceptive pill at selected local pharmacies by visiting a participating pharmacy to receive a consultation and either be supplied contraception for the first time, or receive their next supply.

The move is part of the NHS and Government’s Primary Care Recovery Plan which commits to a major expansion in healthcare services, giving patients quicker and more convenient access to care.

Other ways in which people can plan ahead for their healthcare needs over the Festive period are to:

 Order repeat prescriptions well in advance: Use the NHS App to order repeat prescriptions, or change your nominated pharmacy. The NHS App is being redesigned to make it easier for people to find the services they need. Help is also available through the NHS website, www.nhs.uk, search ‘How to order a repeat prescription’,

Prepare a small stock of basic medicines for minor illnesses or injury:  These may include paracetamol, plasters, indigestion remedy and anti-diarrhoeal medicine. For advice, search ‘What should I keep in my first aid kit?’ on the NHS website, or ask your local pharmacist.

Dr Baig added: “Although it’s a time for celebration, the festive period can also be overwhelming for some people or bring added stress, and some might feel lonely at this time.

“If you are feeling down, stressed, or worried, NHS Talking Therapies are ready to help you. The service is free and you can refer yourself to your local service, or ask your general practice team for further information.

"Talking Therapies are delivered by accredited professionals in person, by video, over the phone or as an online course. Please go to nhs.uk/mentalhealth to find your nearest service.”