NHS Forth Valley is preparing for a busy New Year as health and social care services across the area continue to face very high levels of demand.

As we head into another long holiday weekend, local people are reminded how to access health advice and treatment as quickly as possible over the New Year period.

GP Practices are operating as normal today (Friday, December 29) and will then close for two days at New Year on Monday, January 1, and Tuesday, January 2, reopening on Wednesday, January 3.

If you take regular prescribed medication, you should check you have enough to last over the New Year break.

A number of local pharmacies in Forth Valley will be open for periods of time on New Year’s Day and January 2 and, as part of a service called Pharmacy First, they 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 New Year period can be found on the Winter Zone of the NHS Forth Valley website www.nhsforthvalley.com/winter

The Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) at Stirling Health and Care Village is open every day over the holiday period, including 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.

You should phone NHS 24 on 111 before attending the MIU for advice as they can also arrange an appointment so that you don’t need to wait when you attend.

If you need healthcare advice for a non-life-threatening condition you can use the symptom checkers and self-help guides on NHSInform.scot for advice on flu-like illnesses, coughs, fevers, stomach pain, vomiting, headaches, sore throats, accessing medication 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 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm) for advice on local services or for urgent healthcare advice, including serious dental problems such as abscesses and swellings and bleeding, call NHS 24 on 111.

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.