Ahead of the consultants’ strike this week, local people are being urged to think carefully about which health service they should use.

NHS leaders in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are expecting the NHS to be under immense pressure when consultants go on strike from 7am on Thursday 24 August, until 7am on Saturday 26 August. The strike will then be followed by the summer bank holiday (Monday 28 August) when GP practices and many pharmacies will be closed.

Dr Nil Sanganee, chief medical officer for NHS Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Integrated Care Board, said: “We have plans in place to ensure we can provide emergency cover in our hospitals, so do use the 999 service if it is a life-threatening emergency.

“However, please be aware that our hospitals, like the wider NHS and local health and care system, are really busy, so please help us by choosing the right NHS service for your needs. If you have a medical problem that is not critical or life-threatening use the 111 online service and remember that GP practices and pharmacies are also open and largely unaffected by the strikes.”

NHS111 provides advice and, if necessary, can make an appointment at a local urgent treatment centre. This avoids having to attend the hospital emergency department and it frees up services for people who are seriously ill.

People who take regular medication are also asked to plan ahead and make sure they have enough to last through the bank holiday weekend, to avoid being caught short and running out of supplies. GP practices and many community pharmacies will be closed on bank holiday Monday 28 August. Repeat prescriptions can be ordered using the NHS App, as well as through GP practices. Bank holiday opening times for pharmacists in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/midlands/nhs-england-and-nhsimprovement-midlands-work/bank-holiday-pharmacy-opening-times/.

With many people away on holiday at this time, Dr Nil Sanganee also has advice for those who are staying in the UK. He said: “If you’re unlucky enough to be unwell while away from home, you can still contact your usual GP practice. They will be able to provide a phone or video consultation and, if you need medication, they can arrange for prescriptions to be sent to any pharmacy you choose. You can also use NHS 111 online for advice about getting the right care near to where you are.”

People can check the Get in the Know website for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, to find out how to get the right care as quickly as possible when they are unwell or injured, with all the information on local urgent care services in one place. It also offers advice on summer health, including hay fever, asthma, insect bites, sunburn and how to access health services if you’re ill while away from home. Visit: https://leicesterleicestershireandrutland.icb.nhs.uk/yourhealth/
get-in-the-know .

Come forward for medical care if you need it
Even though the NHS is expected to be busier than normal, people are advised to continue coming forward for care, including calling 999 if it’s serious or a life-threatening emergency. They should attend any booked appointments, unless the NHS has already told them that they need to reschedule.

GP practices will be open as normal, so people should continue to use them for anything urgent and that they can’t treat themselves. Dentists in the community will also be unaffected by the strike.

If it’s urgent
For urgent health needs people are asked to use NHS 111 as the first port of call by visiting www.111.nhs.uk. They can also phone NHS 111 if they do not have online access or for children under 5. The 111 service is available 24/7 and can advise where to get help for specific symptoms, direct people to the best local service to use, and book an appointment or arrival time to keep waiting times to a minimum.

For urgent mental health support, people can call the Mental Health Central Access Point on 0808 800 3302. There is also a range of Neighbourhood Mental Health Cafes available across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Full details are available on the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust website: https://www.leicspart.nhs.uk/service/neighbourhood-mhcafes/

For minor injuries or illnesses
People can look after many minor illnesses and injuries themselves at home, but if they need any extra support they can visit www.111.nhs.uk, use the NHS App or go to a local pharmacy.

Pharmacists are qualified health professionals and are the right people to see for advice or over-the-counter medicines. They are trained in dealing with many illnesses, they can check symptoms and recommend the best treatment. There is a local pharmacy near to where most people live, so they offer fast, convenient support – without an appointment. Most also have a private consultation room.

Andrew Furlong, medical director/deputy chief executive officer for University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “The whole NHS is likely to be pressured during the industrial action. We are well prepared and focussed on providing a safe urgent and emergency care service to all who need it.

“The public can help us by calling 999 in a life-threatening emergency only. You can click or call 111 for non-life-threatening care, helping you get to the right place for your needs first time. Local pharmacies can help with less serious ailments.

“Anyone with a hospital appointment should continue to attend as planned unless they have been contacted to rearrange.”

Sanjay Rao, a consultant psychiatrist for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, said: “Crisis mental health services remain open. Our Mental Health Central Access Point is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on freephone 0808 800 3302. As well as assessments and early interventions where needed, the service aims to reduce the pressure on other services, particularly emergency services, by offering an alternative to NHS111 and the emergency department. Anyone needing mental health support for themselves or others can call this service. If there is an immediate threat to someone’s life, please phone 999.”