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South West NHS prepares for Easter visitor demand ahead of strikes

The NHS in the South West is preparing for the start of the holiday season, as the first of an expected 16 million-plus visitors start to arrive, increasing demand for services.

Tourists and local people are being encouraged to make best use of health services, especially as the Easter bank holiday weekend will be followed immediately by a four-day nationwide strike by hospital doctors.

The message is that urgent and emergency care will be there for you, but please choose the right service for your needs.

Ahead of the Easter weekend, the advice is to:

  • Make sure you have ordered and collected any repeat medicines, especially if you are travelling
  • Continue to call 999 in emergency and life-threatening cases - when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk
  • Go to NHS 111 online if you need medical help or advice, or you are unsure about whether you should go to hospital; you can also phone 111
  • On strike days, take advice from 111/999 call-handlers on whether there are circumstances where it is suitable to make your own way to hospital
  • Play your part by taking simple steps during industrial action to look after yourselves and loved ones, checking in on vulnerable family members and neighbours. A firsts step is making sure your medicine cabinet is well-stocked
  • Make use of community pharmacies, which can advise on minor illnesses and provide medications. Details of which pharmacies are open over the Easter bank holiday weekend can be found via the interactive map here:

Visitors to the South West are also reminded that their first port of call for GP care is their home practice, which will be able to provide online, phone and video consultations as well as arranging for prescriptions to be sent to any pharmacy you choose.

Dr Michael Marsh, NHS England’s South West Regional Medical Director, said: “The NHS in the South West has been preparing for a while for the start of the main holiday season, when we’ll start welcoming millions of people to this lovely part of the world.

“This Easter, we’re asking visitors and residents alike to ‘help us help you’ by choosing the right treatment options, especially as hospital services will be affected by strike action next week.

Next week’s industrial action is set to be the biggest and most disruptive in NHS history. We need to prioritise ensuring people can still receive emergency treatment, critical care, maternity and neonatal care and trauma, which is why we’re asking people to only dial 999 in an emergency and use NHS 111 for non-life-threatening care, as well as local pharmacies or general practice.

Anyone with an appointment should continue to attend as planned, unless they’ve been contacted to rearrange.”

Further information

  • For more information on when to call 999 and when to go to A&E, you can visit the NHS UK website.
  • GP practices will continue to be open during the junior doctors’ strike. Please continue to attend your GP and dental appointments, unless you are contacted and told otherwise.
  • Anyone with hospital appointments, tests and operations during the strike should attend unless they are contacted by staff to arrange another date.
  • Junior doctors make up around half of all doctors in the NHS. They are qualified doctors who have anywhere up to eight years’ experience working as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to three years in general practice. So, these are people who make a material contribution to patient safety on a day to day basis.
  • 16.1m people came to the South West on overnight trips in the nine months from April to December 2021, with the tourist season traditionally starting at Easter. This is more than any other region in England. See:
  • Social media messages about the NHS in the South West are being shared across the region and into the Midlands and London, where most UK visitors come from.

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