How to seek medical help in east London over Christmas

GPs are reminding people that choosing the right place for medical help over the Christmas holidays can help them get the treatment they need faster.

More than 140,000 people attended A&E in north east London last December and January and hospital emergency departments in the area are expected to be extremely busy again this year. Patients will often be seen quicker by visiting their local pharmacy or a GP, even during the holiday season.

Many parents are also understandably concerned about scarlet fever and invasive Group A Strep infections this winter. Latest UK Health Security Agency data shows that cases in north east London remain extremely low, and information about the symptoms and what to do can be found on the NHS North East London website.

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GP appointments will be available to book throughout the festive period for patients across north east London, including from 8am to 8pm on all bank holidays, such as Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Appointments are also available every weekday evening between 6.30pm and 10pm (8pm in Hackney and City of London), and between 8am and 8pm on weekends and bank holidays.

If you live in the City of London, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest or Newham, you can book these appointments by calling your own GP practice as usual during working hours or by calling NHS 111 when it is closed.

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If you live in Barking and Dagenham or Havering, you can book these appointments by calling the GP hubs booking hotline on 020 3770 1888 (open from 8am-8pm) or by calling NHS 111 at any time, seven days a week. In Redbridge you will need to call 020 3649 4499.

You can also get help with minor injuries and illnesses at the community urgent treatment centres (UTCs) at Barking Community Hospital and Harold Wood Polyclinic. These are open from 8am to 9pm, seven days a week. You can call NHS 111 to book an appointment or walk in and wait to be seen.

Patients are being advised to make sure they have enough medication to last them over the Christmas holidays. However, some community pharmacies will also be open on the festive bank holidays.

Most minor health conditions can be treated at home and local pharmacists can help. There are many over-the-counter medications which can be used to alleviate symptoms of winter viruses such as cold or flu without needing to use antibiotics.

Hospital admissions for flu are high this year so people are encouraged to take up their vaccine and get their children vaccinated when invited to do so by the NHS.

Dr Jagan John, a local GP and board member at NHS North East London, said: “We understand illnesses don’t stop for the holidays, and that sometimes you or a family member may need an appointment with a GP or nurse outside normal working hours.

“This year we’re offering flexible appointments in the evenings, weekends and on bank holidays, including Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, so you can get the help you need when you need it. Our A&Es are extremely busy, often with long, uncomfortable waits, and you will often get quicker, more appropriate help from your GP or pharmacist or by calling 111.”

If you have an urgent but not life-threatening medical need, make sure you visit NHS 111 online first rather than going straight to A&E. If you cannot use the internet, call 111.

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