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Stay Well This Winter – your health and care services over Christmas and New Year


This year, more than ever, the health and social care system would like to encourage everyone to look after themselves, both physically and mentally, and take actions that will help stay well during winter.

As we head into the holidays, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) together with the five Health and Social Care Trusts, GPs, pharmacists and dentists, want to assure you that arrangements are in place should you or a member of your family become ill or have an accident over the Christmas and the New Year holiday period.

If you feel unwell, it is also important, to choose the service most appropriate to your symptoms, so you can get better quicker.

Online symptom checker

Self-care is the best choice to treat most minor illnesses, ailments and injuries.  A range of common illnesses such as aches and pains, colds and upset stomachs can be treated with over the counter medicines and plenty of rest. You can find information about a range of common illnesses by using the symptom checker on nidirect.

Pharmacy opening hours over Christmas and New Year

Pharmacies operate a rota arrangement over Christmas and New Year. You can search by the town closest to you here.

This year, the Pharmacy First service is being offered at participating community pharmacies. The Pharmacy First service is a winter initiative by the health service which enables patients to have a consultation virtually or in a private area with their local community pharmacist.

Pharmacists can offer advice and treatment for common conditions, recommend treatment and refer patients to other healthcare professionals as appropriate.


Same day appointments will be available when GP surgeries re-open from 29th December 2020 and 4th January 2021. Contact your GP on the usual numbers.

GP practices will be closed from 25th December 2020 – 28th December 2020 and 1st January 2021.

GP out of hours

This service is for urgent medical care when your GP surgery is closed. Find your local service here

Covid Centres

Operating as normal over the Christmas period (7 days per week 8am-10pm).

Please note access to Covid Centres is via a GP practice or Out of Hours referral.

Minor Injuries Units

This service is for can treat injuries that are not critical or life threatening such as:

Some Minor Injuries Units are operating a Phone First service. Check your local service here before you attend.

Emergency Departments

Emergency Departments provide the highest level of emergency care for patients, especially those with sudden and acute illness or severe trauma. Some Emergency Departments are operating a Phone First service. Check your local hospital to see if this service is offered.

For all emergencies that are life threatening, always call 999 immediately. This can include: Stroke, heart attack, loss of consciousness, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding or major trauma.

Out of hours Dental Services

For out of hours urgent dental problems, patients should ring their dental surgery or if they are not registered with a dentist, they should contact a local dentist.  Dentists will have arrangements in place to offer advice, prescription for pain relief or referral to an Urgent Dental Care Centre.

Urgent Dental Care Centres will operate morning clinics from 25th December 2020 to 28th December 2020 and from 1st Jan 2021 to 3rd Jan 2021 on a referral basis only.

Urgent eye care

If you have an urgent eye problem during the holiday period, please contact your local Optometrist in the first instance. If your Optometry practice is closed and your eye problem is very urgent and cannot wait until normal opening hours, please contact your nearest hospital Emergency Department.

Out of hours Emergency Social Work Service

This service is for genuine emergencies that cannot wait until the next working day.

Regional Emergency Social Work Service 028 9504 9999.

Mental health emergency

For mental health emergencies, call Lifeline free, in confidence, 24/7 on 0808 808 8000.

Resources are also avaiable for COVID-19 related mental health and wellbeing