Be prepared and help ease pressure on health services this Easter

People living in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES), Swindon and Wiltshire are being urged to get ready for the approaching Easter holidays in order to help ease demand on health services across the region.

As GP surgeries prepare for the Easter break, health and care leaders are asking people to check they have the essential medication they need to see them through the holiday period and make sure they know where to go for healthcare advice and treatment.

They are also being advised that for non-urgent minor conditions, pharmacists are equipped to give advice on over the counter medications and treatments.

Bank holidays can be extremely busy for the NHS and local people are being asked to use services wisely so that accident and emergency departments and ambulance services are available for those who need them most.

Most GP surgeries across the region will be closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday on 19 and 22 April, although pre-booked appointments are available at some surgeries and walk in centres and some urgent treatment centres will also be open.

Dr Ian Orpen, a GP based in Bath and Chair of BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire’s Clinical Board, said:

“Everybody wants to enjoy the Easter holidays, so it’s a good idea to do as much as possible to prepare for them in advance – particularly when it comes to staying well. We don’t want people to run out of their medication, become poorly and miss out on an enjoyable break, so do make sure you have enough repeat medicine to last over the long weekend.”

“If you are unlucky enough to be ill over the Easter holiday, remember you can phone 111. NHS 111 is the Freephone number to call should you need urgent medical advice when your GP surgery is closed. You’ll speak with a trained advisor who will help you. You can also access NHS 111 online, 24 hours a day.”

Other things people across B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire can do to stay healthy and prepare for the Easter break include:

  • Make sure your medicine cabinet is well-stocked and includes essentials such as sticking plasters, paracetamol, anti-diarrhoea medicine and indigestion remedy. Having these items to hand could save you time and the stress of a mad dash to your local pharmacy or shop.

  • Remember that, for non-urgent, minor conditions, pharmacists are equipped to give advice on over the counter medications and treatments. A list of pharmacists open this Easter can be found on our website or on the NHS England and NHS Improvement website at

  • Parents can access expert advice about common childhood illnesses and how to treat them via HANDi App – a mobile app which is free and can be downloaded to any Apple or Android smartphone or tablet.


New Chief Executive appointed to continue integration of health and care across BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire

Three NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have appointed a single Chief Executive to oversee the ongoing improvement and integration of health and care services across the region.

Tracey Cox has taken up the position of Chief Executive of Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire CCGs and will also lead the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) for the region.

The STP brings together NHS providers, GPs, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Local Authorities, hospital trusts and other community organisations to join up and improve health and care services for local people.

Tracey was previously Accountable Officer for BaNES CCG and Interim Senior Responsible Officer for the STP. She will oversee closer working between the three local Clinical Commissioning Groups, which will operate with a single senior management team, use their collective resources more efficiently and streamline their respective decision-making arrangements.

Her appointment comes as the NHS sets out its vision for the future in its new Long Term Plan which emphasises the importance of health and care organisations working collaboratively and looks to give everyone the best start in life, world-class care for major health problems and help to age well.

Tracey Cox, Chief Executive Officer for BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire CCGs and STP said:

“With our local health and care system facing unprecedented demand and financial pressures, it’s now more important than ever before that health and care providers work in a joined up and seamlessly integrated manner.

Where it makes sense, we will work collaboratively to deliver health & care improvements for a larger population across the region. We will also continue with our existing plans for local integration and transforming services that benefit our local communities and are responsive to people’s needs.

The views and the needs of people living in the local area will play a central role in the way we shape services in the future and we will be starting a programme of public engagement about this over the next few months.”

Dr Ian Orpen, chair of BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire STP’s Clinical Board, said: 

“Tracey’s appointment asserts the local health and care system’s commitment to integrated working which will deliver improved health and wellbeing, better services and better value for money for everyone living in B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire.”

Councillor Jerry Wickham, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Public Protection on Wiltshire Council and Chair of BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire STP said:

“I’m delighted that Tracey has been appointed to oversee closer integration of health and care services across our region. It is only through working together as a truly integrated system that we will be able to help people to stay well, act early to prevent ill health and, where care is needed, make sure it is delivered in a joined up way.

This move builds on existing good joint working across the three CCGs and local authorities and is in line with what is happening in other areas of England.”

Sore throat, cough, cold or minor illness? See your local pharmacist first

People in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES), Swindon and Wiltshire suffering from minor illnesses including sore throats, coughs, colds, tummy troubles and aches and pains are being urged to seek help from their local pharmacist in the first instance rather than booking an appointment with their GP or visiting their local A&E department.

The advice is part of a new NHS campaign to encourage the public – and particularly parents with young children – to visit a local pharmacy as their first choice for help with common minor health concerns.

The campaign follows research which shows that 27 per cent of GP appointments could potentially be treated elsewhere and that 18 per cent of these appointments could be treated through self-care and community pharmacists.

Andrew Hobson, Pharmacy Manager at Cohens Chemist in Royal Wootton Bassett and Vice Chair of Community Pharmacy Swindon and Wiltshire said:

“Every year, millions of people visit their GP with minor health problems that a local pharmacy could easily help with. By visiting your pharmacy instead of your GP about a minor illness, you could save yourself time. Seeing a pharmacist will also free up appointments for your GP to see other patients.

Pharmacists can help recognise and treat many common illnesses. We can give advice and where appropriate, recommend over-the-counter medicines that could help clear up the problem. We can also give advice about how to take medicines and answer questions about common side-effects. If we think you need to see a GP for your illness, we will advise you to do that.”

Richard Brown, Chief Officer of Avon Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said:

“There is a strong network of local pharmacists across B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire. They are often open late and at weekends, can see people without an appointment and their highly trained staff can offer quick and effective treatment and good advice about many common conditions.

For minor health concerns such as coughs and colds, don’t wait until it gets worse, ask your pharmacist first.”