The entire Health and Social Care system across Northern Ireland continues to experience unprecedented pressures with many people experiencing significant delays in receiving care and treatment.
Your support is vital at this critical time.
Please play your part to help keep services running this winter 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 at the same time easing pressure on staff.
Emergency Departments offer specialist care to those who are seriously ill or injured and to those whose life is at risk. In an emergency always dial 999.
For other conditions, please consider other services, including Urgent Care Centres (which are now running in Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Downe Hospital and Craigavon Area Hospital), Minor Injury Units, GP Out of Hours, or your own GP.
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 coughs, colds, eye conditions, stomach upsets, skin conditions, allergies, aches and pains, women's health including treatment for thrush and emergency contraception (for women and young people aged 13 years and over) and also for children's health, including nappy rash, teething, threadworms, head lice, warts and verruca. Pharmacists can also refer patients to other healthcare professionals as appropriate.
For repeat prescriptions plan ahead and check that you have enough medication to avoid last minute orders when GP surgeries are closed. Register for online services if your GP surgery offers it - this will help free up GP telephone lines.
For out of hours urgent dental problems, patients should ring their own dental practice in the first instance. The practice will outline their out-of-hours arrangements or advise you to contact the Emergency Dental Clinic directly.
GPs, GP Out of Hours and community pharmacists services are all under pressure - so please be patient with staff.
Flu and Covid
This is the time of year when we typically see increases in respiratory viruses. Flu and COVID are both circulating in Northern Ireland along with other respiratory viruses. This is contributing to the pressures currently being seen in our hospitals, GP practices and GP Out of Hours.
For some people, these types of illnesses can be very unpleasant but can usually be managed through self-care at home with over the counter medications, fluids and rest. If you are eligible, get the flu and COVID jabs to help protect you and those around you.
If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection and have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out your normal activities you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, especially those who are most vulnerable. If your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery until they feel better and the fever has resolved. Resting, drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen or over the counter medicines that are available from your community pharmacy will ease your symptoms and help you recover.
It is recognised that for some patients, these conditions can be very dangerous and sometimes fatal, especially in the very young or very old. If you are concerned about yours or someone else's symptoms, or they are getting worse, contact your GP.
If you intend visiting others in a health and social care facility but are feeling unwell, please do not visit until you are feeling better.
Our hospitals are currently under significant pressure with very ill patients waiting for hospital beds in our Emergency Departments. To help us, we ask patients who are deemed fit to be discharged to a community setting to accept a bed offered to them by their Health and Social Care Trust and for their families to support the discharge.
Mind Your Head
It's really important to take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing especially at this difficult time. If you are concerned about your physical or emotional wellbeing, you should contact your GP. If you are in emotional distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.
On line Support
If your condition isn't urgent, consider the following:
- information on where to get your COVID or Flu vaccine if you are eligible but have not yet had your vaccines is available on hscni.net.
- if you have a minor health concern please visit the A-Z Symptom Checker for help and advice on NI Direct.
- is your child feeling unwell? Please use our Children's Symptom Checker for expert advice and guidance.
- ask your Pharmacist.
- alternatively, to find out which healthcare service you should use visit NI Direct.
- find waiting time information at all Emergency Departments and Minor Injury Units at NI Direct.
- mental Health and Wellbeing information and resources are available on the Minding your Head website.
- if you are not registered with a dentist, you should contact a local dental practice (in search box add 'dental'). Further information visit hscni.net.
- check NI Direct to find out if your GP surgery offers an online repeat prescription service.