NHS Wales Chief Executive Judith Paget shares advice for accessing NHS services this winter

“Help us help you get the right care, in the right place, first time.”

This winter, we all have a role to play to help alleviate the pressures faced by the NHS during the challenging months ahead. Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, explores how NHS services are evolving and the different ways individuals can access care in their local communities.

Judith Paget, NHS Wales Chief Executive, says:

“Better health starts with us as individuals. We all have a role to play to help reduce the pressures faced by our emergency services and GPs this winter. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to get to know the different ways they can access the NHS care they need, quickly and easily.

“There are many NHS services and different health professionals that can now help you get the right care, in the right place, first time. You might not even have to leave your home or workplace. Gone are the days where people feel that they have no option but to see a GP or go to an emergency department for urgent care.

“If you’re unwell or injured then there are many NHS services that could help such as local pharmacists, minor injuries units, or NHS 111 Wales. Often, using these services will mean you get assessed and treated quicker.

“GP practices in Wales have evolved, with 95% of practices across Wales offering a mix of remote, face to face, urgent and pre-bookable appointments. If you decide to contact your GP then it’s likely you’ll need to visit their website or an app to book a consultation. If you aren’t able to access online services then you can still call or visit.


“Upon contacting your GP, you’ll speak to a specially trained member of staff who will ask questions about why you’re calling. It’s really important to answer these questions accurately as it will help determine the best care for you. The conversation is completely confidential, and your request will be dealt with under the guidance of a doctor or senior clinician.


“Once they understand the best way to deal with your needs, you’ll be directed to the most appropriate care and health professional to ensure you’re seen and assessed as quickly as possible. This might not necessarily be a doctor – you could be referred to a physiotherapist, practice nurse or occupational therapist at your GP or advised to use other community services available like a pharmacist or optician. Rest assured, if you need to speak to a doctor then you will be offered a telephone, video or face-to-face appointment the same day or in the future, dependent on your needs.


“Remember, you usually don’t need an appointment to speak to your local pharmacist about a new or existing health concern, so using this service could mean you get assessed quicker than contacting your GP. You can visit your local pharmacist for free advice on many health conditions and medications. Pharmacists can also provide some over-the-counter and prescription medicines free of charge without you having to see a doctor for a range of common ailments including sore throats, indigestion, chicken pox and conjunctivitis. Local pharmacies can provide details about this service.

“We understand that an illness or injury can happen at any time which is why NHS 111 Wales offers urgent health advice, both online and over the telephone, 24 hours a day seven days a week. If you call 111, you will first speak to a highly trained call handler to make sure you are offered the right care. This could include a callback from a healthcare professional, being directed to a pharmacist or minor injury unit, or advice on how you can look after yourself at home. Fewer than one in five people who call NHS 111 Wales are advised to visit an emergency department, so using this service could save you time and an unnecessary journey.

“This year we expanded NHS 111 Wales to provide urgent mental health support to people of all ages in Wales, 24 hours a day. If you need to talk to a mental health professional urgently, or you’re concerned about a family member, you can now call NHS 111 Wales and press option 2. For confidential listening and emotional support, the CALL Helpline can also provide free support around the clock by calling 0800 132 737 or texting “help” to 81066.

“The winter months will be challenging for the NHS, but together we can help to reduce the pressures faced by emergency services and GPs, so everyone can continue to access the care they need quickly and easily. As well as using the full breadth of community and health services to access NHS care, there are simple things we can do to take better care of ourselves and our families.


“Practicing self-care is something we can all benefit from, particularly if something is putting a strain on your health or wellbeing. Keeping active, connecting with family and friends, maintaining a healthy diet and ensuring you’re getting enough sleep are all proven to help protect and improve our wellbeing.


“Colder weather brings greater risk of injury due to trips and falls, and the number of people feeling unwell from respiratory illnesses will also rise. It helps to be prepared so staying up to date with your vaccinations is the best defence against a range of illnesses, including flu and COVID19,. Having a basic supply of simple medicines to manage minor illnesses such as colds and flus will also ensure you’re one step ahead. You can buy these from your local pharmacy.


“The bank holidays during the festive season means that standard opening times may change for GPs and your local pharmacy. By planning ahead, you can make sure you have enough of your prescribed medication for your needs. Please liaise with your GP and your local pharmacy at least seven days in advance of bank holidays to ensure you don’t run out.


“Help us help you get the right care, in the right place, first time this winter. For free advice on self-care and more information on the different ways you can access NHS services, visit the Help Us Help You website or search ‘Help Us Help You Wales’.”