People are being asked to think 111 first over the upcoming long weekend to help ease pressure on local health services.

NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week online via 111.nhs.uk or by calling 111 for free.

When you call you will be connected to an advisor who can help you get the right treatment, first time or make a timed arrival slot at a minor injuries unit, Urgent treatment centre or the local Emergency Department if appropriate.

Please note that occasionally due to more urgent cases in the department you still may have to wait a short time, but you won’t wait longer than had you just walked in.

There are other things you can do to help your local NHS:

Leave enough time to get your medication

Make sure you collect your prescriptions in good time as not all pharmacies or practices will be open – this is particularly important for repeat medication. Please ensure you leave two working days, if you have an urgent requirement contact your normal GP practice.

Need to contact your GP? Use eConsult

eConsult is an online system which is available via your practice website and enables you to complete a confidential online form which is then sent to your GP. Your practice will contact you within 2 working days to offer advice, referral to an alternative service or an appointment if necessary.

Over 30,000 eConsult forms are completed each month by patients in Dorset.

Use your pharmacy

Your pharmacist can help with everyday ailments.

If you suffer from hay-fever speak to your local pharmacist. They can give you advice on how to manage symptoms and provide antihistamines if appropriate.

Please don’t go to your local pharmacy if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 – visit 111.nhs.uk.

In common with the rest of the healthcare system, pharmacies are currently under huge pressure, working round the clock to make sure customer get the medicines they need, so please be patient if you are required to wait and please observe social distancing guidance.

Find your local pharmacy via www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy.

Observe the current COVID-19 restrictions

Whilst restrictions are easing you can minimise your risk and the possibility of spreading COVID-19 to your friends and family by continuing to observe social distancing and wearing a mask when indoors – for example in shops or on public transport.

For a full list of current restrictions please visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Local GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Dr Karen Kirkham said “Thanks to the success of the ongoing vaccination programme and the tremendous efforts of people across the whole country to reduce the spread of the virus, we are seeing a decline in the demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, local services are still under huge pressure so we are asking people to continue to help local services by making the right choice when they need care.

“Please only use 999 or your emergency department in a genuine life threatening situation, for everything else please either call or go online to 111 whether our trained teams will direct you to the right place for your care into booked appointments, should this be needed.

“As we move towards what we hope will be further easing of restrictions in June we are also reminding everyone, whether or not you have been vaccinated to stick to the rules and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the increased risk posed to those who haven’t yet had their jab.

“We have come this far by working together to protect each other and we need to continue watching out for each other at this time and not let the prospect of a better summer slip from our grasp.”