NHS staff will spend the holidays working round the clock to keep us hale and hearty and able to enjoy the festive season with our family and friends.
But we all have a part to play in ensuring we don’t waste precious time at the A&E department or out of hours clinic.
NHS Forth Valley has issued some seasonal advice to ensure that only those who need urgent care are treated at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.
And the first line of defence is taking practical measures ourselves to guard against any ills.
Stocking up on over the counter medicines, and making sure your repeat presciption is filled, if needed, means you’ll be prepared for most eventualties.
However, a number of pharmacists are also taking time out of their holidays to help those who are caught short.
On Christmas Day, the Pines Pharmacy in Fleming Court, Denny, and Rowlands Pharmacy, at 16 Charlotte Dundas Court, Grangemouth, will both be open from 10am to 11am.
On Boxing Day, Boots the Chemist in Falkirk High Street will open from 10am to 5pm; Boots in Grangemouth from noon to 4pm and T McLean and Sons, 13 King Street, Stenhousemuir, from 9am to 1pm.
On January 1, Pines Pharmacy in Denny and Lloyds Pharmacy at 29 La Porte Precinct, Grangemouth, will be open 10am to 11am, with Boots in Falkirk open on January 2 from 10am to 5pm and in Grangemouth from noon to 4pm.
These days, pharmacies do much more than simply dispense drugs. More than 10,000 people in Forth Valley have accessed the Pharmacy First service in 2019.
Introduced in all 76 of the area’s pharmacies, it enables pharamacists to offer over-the-counter treatment for common health conditions without the need for a visit to the GP.
They can assist with a range of ailments, including urinary tract infections, impetigo, bacterial conjunctivitis, thrush and skin conditions such as eczema and contact dermatitis.
Scott Mitchell, NHS Forth Valley’s pharmacy director, said: “We are delighted that so many local people have made use of the Pharmacy First service this year.
“Offering treatment in pharmacies not only takes pressure off busy GP services but also makes it easier for people to access healthcare without having to make an appointment.
“A small number of pharmacies will be open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and January 2 for medication or healthcare advice.”
Mental health nurses will be working with GPs in NHS Forth Valley’s out-of-hours service to help people get through what can be a difficult time of year.
On-the-spot testing for flu, an extension to outpatient antibiotic therapy and an increase in the number of specialist nurses in the community have also been put in place to ease winter pressures.
It is all part of the wider winter plan, a joint initiative between NHS Forth Valley and Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnerships.
Andrea Fyfe, director of acute services at NHS Forth Valley, said: “Winter is the busiest time of year for the NHS and it is vital we have plans in place to cope with the increase in demand.
“We are also appealing to local people to avoid putting pressure on the emergency department by making use of other services for minor illnesses and injuries.”
The Minor Injuries Unit at Stirling Health and Care Village will be open every day this winter, from 9am to 9pm.
It offers treatment to patients, aged over one year old, for a range of minor injuries including suspected broken bones, sprains, strains, cuts and scratches, minor burns and infected wounds.
GP and dental surgeries will only be closed for two days at Christmas and New Year.
But anyone who is concerned about symptoms and feels they can’t wait until their surgery re-opens can call NHS 24 free on 111.
Winter health advice can also be found on the website at www.nhsforthvalley.com/winter.