NHS 24, Scotland’s provider of the 111-service, is asking the public to be mindful that there may be changes in the opening times of healthcare services such as GP practices and pharmacies in May due to bank holidays.
While it is usual to have two bank holidays in the month of May in Scotland, due to the Coronation of His Majesty the King on Saturday 6th May, an extra bank holiday has been granted on Monday 8 May. As a result, three out of the five Mondays in May 2023 are now termed as national holiday.
The dates for Scottish May bank holidays are Monday 1st, Monday 8th and Monday 29th May. According to the Scottish Government website, these are set by Scottish Ministers and are the same across the whole of Scotland. Public or local holidays are determined by local councils and can differ between areas. Local councils provide information on any regional arrangements.
Gail MacGregor, Associate Director of Nursing and Operations for NHS 24 explains why bank holidays can have an impact on the 111-service: “A four-day working week is always something to look forward to, and having three of these in May means that more people will be taking advantage of the additional time off to plan trips away or days out.
“Most people are aware that out of hours health providers such as the 111-service are busier during times such as the Christmas or Easter holidays. However, some forget that GPs and pharmacies could also have differing opening hours for the one-off bank holidays such as the ones upcoming in May. This will also have an impact on the number of people accessing our services.
“On average, NHS 24 forecast call volumes to increase by 257% on a Monday bank holiday compared to a normal Monday, and we prepare for this in advance to meet the additional demand. However, we wish to remind people that are other great resources out there that can provide the same accurate and trusted health advice as calling 111.”
NHS 24 manages NHS inform which is Scotland’s online health information service. It has also launched the health app ‘NHS 24 Online’.
Gail continues: “NHS inform and the app NHS 24 Online are digital solutions to get the medical help you need quickly and safely without the need to call 111. Both have online symptom checkers which cover the most common illnesses and ailments, such as lower back pain, flu-like symptoms or urinary tract infections (UTIs). Symptom checkers can also give the appropriate advice fast, such as how to self-manage your symptoms if it is safe to do so, or further information on when and where to seek further medical help.
“Both platforms also offer access to Scotland’s Service Directory, which lists all health and wellbeing services such as GPs, pharmacies, dentists and optometrists. You can use this to search for services which are closest to you and find out the opening hours and contact information for that service.
“If you are fortunate enough to enjoy any of the long weekends throughout May, we hope that you are happy and healthy and able to spend quality time with friends and loved ones. Should you really need urgent health advice or support, our team at NHS 24 along with other colleagues in the NHS are here as always to help.”