Winter is one of the busiest times of year for the NHS and, over the last few months, staff across Forth Valley have been developing detailed plans to help cope with extra demand throughout the festive period and beyond.
This year, GP surgeries across Forth Valley will be closed for four days over Christmas (Friday 25th December re-opening Tuesday 29th December 2015) and for four days over New Year (Friday 1st January re-opening Tuesday 5th January 2016). Anyone experiencing health problems when their GP surgery is closed should contact NHS 24 for advice by dialing 111.
The Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) at Stirling Community Hospital will be open every day throughout the festive period from 9am – 9pm and no appointment is necessary. The MIU is able to treat adults and children over the age of one for a wide range of minor injuries including suspected broken bones, sprains and strains, cuts and scratches, minor burns and infected wounds. Children with minor injuries under the age of one should be taken to the Emergency Department at Forth Valley Royal Hospital. This year, a new campaign is also being launched to raise awareness of the MIU and encourage more local people across Forth Valley to make use of this important health facility. Look out for billboards promoting the MIU and listen out for the new advert on Central FM.
Pharmacies across Forth Valley will operate a rota-system over the festive period to ensure local people can access over the counter medicines, prescriptions and speak to a pharmacist for health advice. Details are available from NHS 24 and the winter zone of the NHS Forth Valley website www.nhsforthvalley.com/winter
Additional doctors, nurses and allied health professionals will be working in our hospitals and local communities to help cope with extra pressures over the festive period and GP cover has been arranged to support our local out-of-hours service. The ALFY telephone advice line has also been extended to provide reassurance, support and advice to older people aged 65 and over across Forth Valley. The service can be contacted by staff, patients and their families 24/7 on 01324 567247.
For more winter health information and advice visit the winter zone on the NHS Forth Valley website www.nhsforthvalley.com/winter You can also see copies of our Winter Plan on the publications section of the website (under health and strategic plans).
Extreme weather conditions such as snow, ice, excessive rainfall, low temperatures and reduced hours of daylight can cause disruption to the provision of day-to-day healthcare services.
Staff have a responsibility to alert their line manager as soon as possible if they are unable to get to their usual place of work. Where possible, staff should attend their nearest NHS facility, which may be in another NHS board area, depending on where you live.
In the event of severe weather, staff will only be able to work from home if this has been agreed in advance with their line manager and they have specific work to carry out. Requests for carer leave and/or special leave will be considered by your line manager consistent with the Special Leave Policy (see below). For further information please refer to the Adverse Weather Policy.
Under this policy, employees will be expected to demonstrate that every reasonable effort was made to reach work, failure to do so, or to follow the reporting procedure may result in unpaid leave.
However, in circumstances where an employee is prevented from attending work due to adverse weather conditions, paid leave for the whole or part of one day may be granted, providing the employee notifies their manager using the normal absence reporting procedure and can confirm that every alternative option has been explored.
Other leave can also be discussed appropriate to the circumstances e.g. annual leave or parental leave.
Winter is always the busiest time of the year for NHS staff so it is vital that you stay well and healthy and look after yourself properly.
As well as having a free flu immunisation (drop-in clinics are available at Forth Valley Royal Hospital for staff until the end of February 2016) some other ways to do this include:
Colds: Always carry tissues and bin then as soon as possible when you have used them, as germs can live several hours. Wash your hands regularly. This destroys bugs that you may have picked up from touching surfaces used by other people such as light switches and handles. Patients too, are more likely to be sniffing and sneezing, so to avoid catching their germs it is well to remember these handy hints.
Norovirus: also known as the winter vomiting bug, is extremely infectious. If you do become ill with vomiting and diarrhoea, remember to let your manager know, drink plenty to avoid dehydration and stay away from work for 48 hours after you become symptom free. Stay away from others.
Eat healthily: Have a hearty breakfast; porridge is ideal and helps you to boost your intake of starch and fibre to give you more energy. It’s also important to maintain five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, even if the temptation when it’s cold is to fill up on comfort food. And don’t forget to drink more
milk to make sure your immune system is in tip top condition.
Regular exercise: This improves the blood flow, strengthens the heart, helps beat the bulge and increases the feel-good hormone ‘endorphins’ that help lift our mood. This can be as simple as a lunchtime walk.
Remember your patients and colleagues need you, so try to stay well and use the services which are available to you. If you do become ill follow the local Attendance Management procedures and get help as early as possible.