Get the right care during the May bank holidays

Hundreds more people attended the emergency department during the Easter bank holiday compared to the year before.

The figures have prompted a call ahead of the May bank holidays (Monday 6 May and Monday 27 May) for people to use the right services.

More than 2,855 people arrived through the doors of Cornwall’s minor injury units with 1,028 of those attending the busy emergency department at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) during the Easter bank holiday - 600 more than the year before. NHS 111 received 4,233 calls, saw 843 people in out of hours clinics and 435 people in their own home.

Of the 350 calls received by NHS 111 were from people requesting repeat prescriptions, which could have been supplied by the pharmacies that were open during the Easter break. 

If you or a member of your family experience a minor injury or illness during the May bank holidays don’t spend your time waiting in the emergency department - there are lots of different ways that you can access advice, support and treatments from the NHS.

Here are some treatment options if you or a family member becomes ill:

Self-care: Having a few basic items in your bathroom medicine cabinet can save you time and effort should you become ill. Items like paracetamol, a bandage, sticking plasters, and antiseptic cream or indigestion tablets. If troublesome symptoms persist or worsen see your GP.

Repeat medication: If you or someone you care for requires repeat medication, make sure you have ordered and collected any prescriptions to ensure you have medicine during the bank holidays. Contact your GP practice as soon as possible to organise prescriptions.

Visit your local pharmacist: You can speak to your pharmacist for confidential expert advice and over-the-counter treatments for a wide range of common illnesses and complaints, such as stomach upsets, allergies, minor cuts, nappy rash, skin conditions and coughs and colds.

They can also arrange an urgent prescription for a supply of any prescribed medicines that run out, so you don’t have to use the out of hours’ service or the emergency department. This service is also available for anyone who’s on holiday or visiting family. You can get details of which pharmacies are open during the bank holiday weekends by visiting our choose well pharmacy page or checking the NHS England website.

NHS 111: If you urgently need to see a GP during the bank holidays, call 111. The NHS 111 service can put you in contact with the GP out-of-hours service, which can arrange for you to see a healthcare professional during bank holidays, evenings and weekends.

If you need help fast but your health problem isn’t life threatening, the 111 service can help. It’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is free to call from landlines and mobile phones. It includes a full range of local health services, including doctors, community nurses, emergency dental care and late opening chemists. NHS 111 is also online at 111.nhs.uk.

Minor injury unit: If your injury is not serious you can get help from a minor injuries unit (MIU) rather than go to the emergency department. By doing so you allow emergency department staff to concentrate on people with serious and life-threatening conditions and save yourself a potentially long wait. You will be seen by an experienced nurse, without an appointment. X-ray is available at some locations. Access waiting times.

Minor injury units are based at:

  • Bodmin Community Hospital
  • Camborne Redruth Community Hospital
  • Falmouth Community Hospital
  • Launceston Community Hospital
  • Liskeard Community Hospital
  • Newquay Community Hospital
  • St Austell Community Hospital
  • St Mary’s Community Hospital
  • Stratton Community Hospital, Bude

Urgent treatment centre: The urgent treatment centre at West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance is open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year for anyone needing urgent medical care for injuries and conditions such as fractures, deep cuts, non-life threatening head injuries and minor falls. You will be seen by a doctor from 9am to 10pm and an experienced nurse overnight. X-ray is available from 8am to 11pm.

Emergency department or 999: Only use the emergency department or the 999 ambulance service for life threatening and emergency conditions. If a family member is experiencing chest pain or has become unconscious telephone 999 immediately.

Online waiting time service: If you do need to visit the emergency department, a minor injury unit or urgent care centre during the holiday, you can see how long you may have to wait by using the online waiting time service, which shows the longest wait, how many people are waiting to be seen and how many people are in the department. It also includes opening times and x-ray availability.

Dr Chorlton, Chair of NHS Kernow, said: “Once again we’re appealing to anyone who needs help to use the right service and keep the emergency department free for urgent and life-threatening care only.

"The emergency department is not the right place to treat sporting sprains and strains, minor fractures, broken bones, upset stomachs, insect bites and cuts. Please visit a minor injury unit or our urgent treatment centre in Penzance for treatment.

“Bank holidays are a time to relax and have fun but if you or a family member falls ill or has an accident, help yourself and the NHS by getting the right treatment for your level of illness or injury

“If you have a minor illness or ailment then visit your local pharmacist. They can help with expert advice and over-the-counter remedies. If you need urgent medical advice but it is not a life threatening emergency, call NHS 111. Their call handlers can tell you anything from where to find an emergency dentist to getting you and out-of-hour’s doctor.”

James Cookson, Pharmaceutical Advisor for NHS Kernow said: “Local pharmacies can provide a lot of help especially during the holiday season.

“If you’re suffering from hay fever visit your local pharmacist, they can help you choose the right medicine. You could also try wearing sunglasses to reduce the pollen irritating your eyes.

“Sunburn is not just for holidays abroad and there are many practical steps you can take to prevent sunburn. These include proper application of sun cream, wearing a hat and avoiding the sun when it’s at its peak between 11am and 3pm. The pharmacy is the best place to get information on which strength of sun cream you should get, especially if you have sensitive skin. If you do get burnt, the pharmacist can also support you in choosing a treatment, but prevention is best. With sunburn, always seek medical help if you feel unwell or the skin swells badly or blisters.”

Mandy Pell, Pharmaceutical Advisor for NHS Kernow said: “If you suffer a sprain or strain whilst doing the gardening or exercising at the gym during the bank holiday weekend, your pharmacist can help you find the best treatment. A pharmacist might suggest tablets, or a cream or gel you rub on the skin.

“Painkillers like paracetamol will ease the pain and ibuprofen will bring down swelling. However, you shouldn't take ibuprofen for 48 hours after your injury as it may slow down healing. After two weeks, most sprains and strains will feel better.

“Avoid strenuous exercise such as running for up to eight weeks, as there's a risk of further damage. Find out more about sprains and strains: www.nhs.uk/conditions/sprains-and-strains

Visit our Choose Well pages for details of all services, opening and waiting times, including for the east of the county, and contact details.