As the colder weather approaches, the NHS in Swindon is urging local people to know their local healthcare options so they can seek help quickly if they become unwell.

Last winter, the Great Western Hospital had to find at least 75 beds each day for patients who needed to be admitted into hospital as an emergency, and the team believe some patients can avoid a hospital stay this winter by making sure they seek advice from a healthcare professional, local pharmacist or call NHS111 as soon after beginning to feel unwell as possible. 

Dr Peter Mack, Clinical Chair of NHS Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group, said:  “The choice of healthcare options is often greater than people realise, particularly for the treatment of minor ailments.

“The local pharmacy is a great first port of call. Pharmacists are not only qualified to give advice on a range of conditions, but are also experts on medicines and can advise people on whether they need to call or visit another NHS service.

“Your GP provides a range of services by appointment and will be able to assess your immediate needs, as well as refer you into a specialist service if necessary. Many surgeries open longer hours now, however if your surgery is closed, dial 111 to speak with a trained adviser quickly.”

Local people are also encouraged to keep themselves well, with simple things like getting the flu jab, keeping warm and staying active.

Leighton Day, Director of Operational Performance at the Great Western Hospital, said: “Although winter doesn’t necessarily mean more patients for the hospital, with colder weather and viruses such as flu in the mix, it means we see a larger proportion of sicker patients, with more complex needs.

“We’re asking local people to look out for each other this winter and seek help before their condition becomes more serious.

“For people who have an urgent health concern and can’t wait to see a GP, there are some healthcare services open late and accessible without an appointment, including dedicated children’s clinics.

“People should call the free NHS 111 phone number, available 24/7, and the team will arrange an appointment for you with one of these local services, if they think you need one.”

If you have an urgent health concern and can’t wait to see your GP, you can turn up without an appointment to the Urgent Care Centre on the Great Western Hospital site, open 7am until midnight, 365 days a year.

Similarly, Swindon NHS Health Centre, based in Islington Street in the town centre, has a Walk-in Centre open from 8am until 6pm, 365 days a year, for anyone who has a health concern and can’t wait to see their GP or isn’t registered with a GP practice. 

Leighton added: “In preparation for the colder months a huge amount of planning has taken place with the whole health and social care system – general practice, community and hospital services and social care – working together to ensure local people receive the best possible care.”

To find out more about healthcare options in Swindon, click here or call NHS 111.