Help the NHS to cope

Health care services are busy – here’s what you can do to help  

Winter is always a busy time for the NHS and this year, health and social care teams also have to cope with the additional demands of COVID-19.  


NHS Tayside doctors, nurses and other teams have already taken action to try and get ahead of the demands being placed on health and social care by looking at where staff are needed the most, how services ensure they can keep caring for the people who are most ill and making sure emergency departments and patients do not have long waits.


However, there are also some simple things that the public can do to help keep services running.


Here, Emergency Medicine Consultant, and Clinical Service Director for Winter, Dr Andy Reddick explains how the public can also play their part: “We have the plans in place to help us face the dual challenges of winter and COVID-19, however there are ways every person in Tayside can help support us over the coming busy weeks.  


“For example, one way the public can really support us is by helping if they have a loved one, friend or neighbour in hospital and it’s time for them to head home.

“It is a great help if someone can collect the patient from hospital and get them safely home. Maybe a family member, neighbour or a voluntary organisation could help. Also, make sure the person’s heating is on, their cupboards are stocked and they have all the medication they need.

“This helps us here in hospital and out in community services as it means patients can get home as soon as they are well enough and hospital beds are available for these people who are most ill and really need to be in hospital.

“It’s also really important that people know where to go to get the right health care for their needs. This makes sure our GP and A&E services are available for people who really need them. For example, local community pharmacies are a great resource and can help with a range of minor illnesses, such as a cold, an upset stomach or general aches and pains.

“You can also look after yourself at home with the usual winter illnesses, such as colds and diarrhoea and vomiting. Make sure your medicine cabinet is well stocked with over-the-counter medicines.

“And remember, the way you access urgent care has changed. If you think you need A&E but it’s not a critical emergency, you should phone NHS 24 on 111 who will direct you to the appropriate care. If you need to come to A&E, you will be given an appointment to save you having to wait.”

NHS Inform also has a handy symptom checker for common illnesses with information about what to do about your symptoms. For when your GP surgery, optician or dentist is closed, and you cannot wait for them to reopen, call NHS 24 on 111 where you will be given advice to make sure you see the right health professional.

NHS Tayside has a one-stop-shop for information about how to stay safe and healthy this winter at This includes details of festive GP closures, pharmacy opening times and where to get the right care at the right place and ways to ensure you and your family can be as prepared as possible. 

Dr Reddick also made a final pre-Christmas plea for people to go and get their vaccinations as soon as they are eligible. “With the new strain of COVID-19 now circulating widely in our communities, one of the most important things you can do to help is to get vaccinated,” he said. “Even if you haven’t had your first dose yet, our vaccination teams will welcome you to one of the many vaccination centres across Tayside. If you have had one or both of your first doses, please remember to get your booster.

“We know everyone is really busy at this time of year but protecting yourself and those you come in to contact with from COVID-19 really is the best gift you can give.”