Choose the right type of care

You can help us keep emergency ambulances available for life-threatening situations by taking a few simple precautions.

Please only use the 999 service for serious health emergencies which include: a major accident, broken bones, breathing problems, severe chest pains, unconsciousness, suspected stroke and severe blood loss.

Options available other than an ambulance

  • Call 111 if you need help fast, but it isn't an emergency
  • Pharmacists and chemists provide a lot of good help and advice for the most common illnesses, along with the right medicines
  • GP/family doctor provide medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses you can't shake off - they should be your first point of contact for most medical issues
  • NHS walk-in centre/Urgent care centre provide treatment of minor illnesses or injuries, without an appointment
  • Accident and emergency department or 999 are available for critical or life-threatening situations.

Tips for keeping warm and infection free

  • Close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in
  • Use hot water bottles or electric blankets to stay warm at night
  • Eat well - try to have regular, hot meals and drink plenty throughout the day
  • Wrap up warm, inside and out. Several thin layers are better than one thick layer. Wear hats, gloves and scarves.
  • If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or breathing problems. Is there a friend, neighbour or relative who could help?
  • Do you know someone who might be at risk during the cold-snap? If so, pop in and see if they are ok, or give them a telephone call.

  • Keep active. Move around at least once an hour and don't sit down for long periods. Even light exercise will help keep you warm and improve circulation.

Keep Calm and Look After Yourself

During the winter months, the demand for NHS services increases significantly as cold weather means there are more slips, trips and injuries. Generally more of us feel unwell during the winter as we spend more time indoors and coughs and colds are passed around our family, friends and colleagues at work.

This all adds up to more of us having an accident or becoming unwell with a winter bug, meaning more people want to see their GP, attend accident and emergency or call 999.

The Keep Calm and Look After Yourself campaign, which runs across the North East, aims to remind people that many of the common winter ailments and illnesses are easily treated at home, or with advice from a pharmacist.

Follow @keepcalmne on Twitter.

The NHS Choices website also has some really good information about self-treating minor conditions all year round. This helps ensure the ambulance service is free to deal with serious and life threatening situations.

What should I keep in my medicine cabinet at home?

Medicine or first aid What it is used for
Paracetamol and ibuprofen Effective at relieving most minor aches and pains, such as headaches, period pain, inflammation in arthritis and sprains.
Oral rehydration salts (such as Dioralyte®) Fever, diarrhoea and vomiting make us lose water and essential minerals, and can lead to dehydration. If you have these symptoms and can't continue your normal diet, oral rehydration salts can help to restore your body's natural balanace of minerals and fluid and relieve discomfort and tiredness. They don't fight the underlying cause of your illness, such as virus or bacteria.
Antacids (comes in chewable tablets or tablets that dissolve in water, or in liquid form) We normally over-indulge during the festive period and this can bring stomach ache, heartburn or trapped wind. A simple antacid will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief.

First aid kit: Bandages, plasters, thermometer, antiseptic, eyewash solution, sterile dressings, medical tape, tweezerzs

These are some of the main items that should be in your first aid kit.

If you have small children, you should keep a thermometer and children's paracetamol handy and take it with you if you take trips or breaks away.

Make sure you have repeat prescriptions

If you or someone you care for requires medicines regularly, make sure you order and collect repeat prescriptions in good time to ensure you or your family have enough medicine to last over the festive period and Bank Holidays.

Many of the calls to out of hour's health services are for emergency repeat prescriptions when people have run out of their medication - a situation that could be avoided with some forethought and planning.

By thinking ahead for your regular medication you are helping our busy out of hour's doctors and nurses.

Information on your local NHS services

If you are injured or unwell there are a number of different NHS services that you can access. If you are unsure if a service can treat your condition, just call ahead and ask.


Your local pharmacy provides expert advice on common health problems and many pharmacies have early and late opening hours.

GP practices and out of hours GP services

Your GP practice treats the majority of your healthcare needs and is usually the first point of contact for most medical issues.

Everyone should be registered with a GP practice - if you are not registered, you can find information about local GP practices at

GP practices are usually open Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Many now open extended hours - sometimes earlier in the morning, later in the evening and some are open on a Saturday. 

During the Christmas holidays, GP practices will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day, so please make sure you order any repeat medication in advance. Please check with your practice for opening details.

If you need to see a GP when your own practice is closed, contact the 111 service who can help.

Urgent dental treatment and out of hours access 

You can contact the out of hours dental service through the 111 service.

A&E or 999 - for health emergencies

Please ONLY use the 999 service for serious health emergencies which include: a major accident, broken bones, breathing problems, severe chest pains, unconsciousness, suspected stroke and severe blood loss.

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