Get the Right Care in the Right Place to Help the NHS this Winter

NHS Forth Valley is preparing for its toughest winter yet as health and social care services across the area continue to face very high levels of demand. As it heads into the festive period local people are being asked to help by ensuring they get the Right Care in the Right Place during the busy winter period.

GP Practices will operate as normal until Friday 22nd December 2023 and will then close for two days at Christmas on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th December 2023 (reopening on Wednesday 27th December 2023) and two days at New Year on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd January 2024 (reopening on Wednesday 3rd January 2024). People who take regular medication are asked to check any repeat prescription they rely on and order only what they need before the festive break to ensure you have to cover you over the holiday period.

A number of local pharmacists across Forth Valley will be open for periods of time on the festive public holidays, including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. As part of a national service called Pharmacy First, local pharmacists can also provide health advice and free treatment, if required, for a range of common conditions without a GP prescription. These include coughs, sore throats, blocked or runny nose, urine infections, conjunctivitis, diarrhoea and indigestion. Details of local pharmacy opening hours during the festive period can be found on the Winter Zone of the NHS Forth Valley website

The Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) at Stirling Health and Care Village will remain open every day over the festive period, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It can treat adults and children over the age of one for a wide range of minor injuries, including cuts and grazes, minor burns, sprains and strains. It can also help with minor eye and ear injuries and arrange X-rays for potentially broken bones, including ankle and wrist injuries. People are asked to phone NHS 24 on 111 before attending the MIU who can arrange for them to speak to a local healthcare professional for advice which may help avoid the need to travel to the Unit. They can also arrange an appointment if you do need to be seen so that you don’t need to wait when you attend.

Local opticians across Forth Valley can provide advice and treatment for a wide range of common eye conditions such as blurred vision and eye infections or refer you direct to a local hospital if the problem is more serious.

The Emergency Department at Forth Valley Royal Hospital is exceptionally busy over the winter period and is there to treat patients with serious illnesses and injuries, like suspected heart attacks, strokes and breathing difficulties, who require emergency care. Patients who attend the Emergency Department with minor or non-urgent conditions may, where appropriate, be safely redirected to other more appropriate services in or out with the hospital. This could be the Minor Injuries Unit at Stirling Health and Care Village, your local pharmacist or GP practice or the Urgent Care Centre within Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

If you need healthcare advice for a non-life-threatening condition you can use the symptom checkers and self-help guides on to help you get the right care, in the right place as quickly as possible. These include advice on flu-like illnesses, coughs, fevers, stomach pain, vomiting, headaches, sore throats, accessing medication if your supplies have run out as well as advice on mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks. You can also phone the NHS Inform helpline on 0800 22 44 88 (Mon – Fri from 8.00am to 6.00pm) for advice on local services. For urgent healthcare advice when your GP Practice is closed call NHS 24 on 111 for advice.

NHS Forth Valley’s Medical Director, Andrew Murray, explained: “Winter is always a very busy time for the NHS and we are seeing exceptionally high levels of demand across local hospital, community and primary care services as well as local social care services. However, local people can get healthcare advice by visiting NHS Inform, calling their national helpline or checking the Winter Zone on our website for details of local services and support.

“This will help ensure you get the right care in the right place, as quickly as possible. It will also prevent our Emergency Department from becoming overcrowded and free up staff to deliver care to those patients most in need of our help this winter.

“It’s also important to remember that Covid-19 hasn’t gone away and we are also starting to see an increase in cases of flu along with other respiratory illnesses. I’d therefore encourage anyone who is eligible to ensure they get their Covid-19 booster and flu vaccinations ahead of the festive period when many people will be socialising more with friends and family.”

More information on local health services, including details of pharmacy opening times over the festive period, details of drop-in vaccination clinics for winter vaccines and links to other useful sources of information and advice, can be found on the Winter Zone of NHS Forth Valley’s website