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The NHS in eastern Cheshire is asking people to think carefully and to consider which health service to use this winter as demands on urgent and emergency care continue to rise.

After a busy festive period, ailments arising from cold weather and flu – as well as cases of the winter bug, norovirus – mean demand on NHS services is heightened.

Conditions like heart disease, stroke and serious breathing problems are worsened by the cold weather. It can also be a difficult time for asthma suffers while cases of respiratory illness often double, causing hospital beds to fill up quickly. 

People are being urged, at the first sign of minor ailment, to self-care or get advice from their local pharmacy and are being reminded that, by choosing the right service, people can get the best treatment in the shortest possible time while keeping A&E departments, GP practices and paramedics free to treat patients with the most serious conditions.

During the festive period and into the New Year, many NHS services have put additional medical and support staff in place to manage increased demand at this busy time of the year. 

Dr Darren Kilroy, A&E consultant at East Cheshire NHS Trust, which runs Macclesfield District General Hospital, said: “We’re currently seeing high volumes of very unwell patients.

“To manage the increased demand on services that we experience every winter, we have plans in place to ensure that services continue to run as smoothly as possible while ensuring that patients’ needs continue to be met.

“It’s not about stopping those who need urgent medical attention from going to A&E or their GP practice but about helping at-risk groups stay well and warding off common winter illnesses before they become more serious and a hospital stay is needed.”

Dr Paul Bowen, clinical chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group and GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton said: “We’re urging anyone with a non-urgent medical complaint to support us by making full use of alternative community services such as your pharmacist or by self-care at home when appropriate.

“This can really help reduce pressure on other parts of the NHS, for example calls to 999 or visits to A&E or your GP surgery.

“Those in at-risk categories can also help by having their free flu jab. It’s the best way to ensure protection against catching flu and developing serious complications.”

Choosing which service is right for you at a given time may not always be easy – often you have more than one option. (See handy graphic for guidance.)

NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG represents 23 GP practices which together plan and buy healthcare for 206,000 people in and around Alderley Edge, Bollington, Chelford, Congleton, Disley, Handforth, Holmes Chapel, Knutsford, Macclesfield, Poynton and Wilmslow.

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