WITH the last bank holiday of the summer approaching, health chiefs in Halton are urging local patients to consider how they use 999 and A&E this weekend.

As many prepare to light up the BBQ, travel to Creamfields or celebrate with friends and family, NHS Halton Clinical Commissioning Group is reminding residents to think before dialling 999 or visiting accident and emergency departments over the bank holiday.

Dr Cliff Richards, chairman of Halton CCG said: “With the increasing pressure on emergency services over the busy bank holiday period, we are stressing the importance of people using alternative local health services and taking care of themselves to ensure A & E and the 999 number are kept free for genuine medical emergencies.

‘‘This bank holiday weekend is also the Creamfields dance music festival which means we will have a lot of visitors to the area which also has a big effect on all our emergency services.

"We want to keep as much pressure off the ambulance and emergency services so that there is no possibility of delay to attending to life threatening problems.

"If you require medical assistance outside of normal surgery hours this bank holiday, patients in Halton have access to a wide range of alternative health services available including GP out-of-hours services, walk-in centres and pharmacists who are qualified to offer advice and treat common, everyday illnesses.”

Alternative NHS services available to Halton residents:

• GP out-of-hours service – For times when you need to see a doctor when your GP surgery is closed, GP out-of-hours services are available on the usual surgery number and are staffed by local doctors and nurses who can offer advice or, if necessary, treatment at home or in a local health centre.

• Walk-in centres – With no appointment necessary, Walk-in  entres are managed by nurses who are available to deal with minor illnesses and injuries. Widnes Walk-in-Centre is open from 7am – 10pm, 365 days a year.

• Minor Injuries Unit – Can treat more serious injuries or if you think you may need an x-ray • Pharmacies –Pharmacists are qualified to offer advice on health issues and medication as well as treat coughs, colds and other common illnesses without an appointment. For those that wish to speak to a pharmacist in private, many have a consultation rooms away from customers to discuss health queries.

• Dental – If you need emergency treatment when your dentist is closed for the holidays you can call 01744 673 803 from 9am - 5pm.

• Sexual health – Your local pharmacist or walk-in centre can dispense emergency contraception.