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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Health and social care services available over Christmas and New Year

Doctor wearing a Christmas hat

The Department of Health is today highlighting key information to help the public access services and stay well over the festive season.

With significant pressures on services, it’s important that you choose the most appropriate service for your needs.

Hospital Emergency Departments are available for sudden and acute illness or severe trauma. If you think you or a loved one needs hospital emergency care, then don’t delay in seeking treatment. EDs are very busy and patients will be “triaged” – to make sure the sickest are cared for quickest.

If you don’t need an ED, there are a range of healthcare services available to help, including the Pharmacy First service in Community Pharmacies, GPs and Minor Injuries Units.

Some services will be operating different opening hours from normal. More information on changes to opening hours is published below.


• Order repeat prescriptions - If you take regular medication, then now is the time to check that you have enough left to do you over the Christmas and New Year period. If you need a repeat prescription, order it now before GP practices close for the holidays.

• Get vaccinated - With winter viruses in circulation, it’s important to top up your protection. Even if you have had a vaccine or been ill with flu or COVID-19 before, immunity fades over time and flu and COVID-19 viruses change each year.

• Self-care is often the best choice to treat most minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. A range of common illnesses such as aches and pains, colds, upset stomachs and sore throats can be treated with over the counter medicines and plenty of rest.

• Symptom checker - If you have a mild or minor illness, you can find information about a range of common illnesses using the NI Direct symptom checker.

• Children’s symptom checker - If your child is unwell and does not require urgent care please use the Belfast Trust Children’s symptom checker(external link opens in a new window / tab) for advice and guidance. 



GP practices will offer additional same day urgent clinical triage consultations, remaining open at lunch time with no half day closures for the working week over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. GP practices will be closed on:

• Monday 25 December 2023

• Tuesday 26 December 2023 

• Monday 1 January 2024

GP out of hours is for urgent medical care when your GP surgery is closed.


Your community pharmacist can offer advice and treatment for common conditions, recommend treatment and make referrals as appropriate.

Through the Pharmacy First service, the majority of pharmacies can provide access to emergency contraception, assessment and treatment for Urinary Tract Infections, as well as other conditions like common colds, earaches, stomach upsets and more.



If you or someone you know needs urgent mental health support, then help is available through Lifeline. The service is free, confidential and available 24/7 on 0808 808 8000.


Minor injuriesA Minor Injuries Unit can treat injuries that are not critical or life threatening.Some Minor Injuries Units are operating a Phone First service. Check your local service here before you attend.



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 999immediately. This can include: Stroke, heart attack, loss of consciousness, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding or major trauma.

In the event of a life-threatening emergency, always dial 999. The Emergency Department should only be used for sudden and acute illness or severe trauma.



Out of hours dental services For out of hours urgent dental problems, patients should ring their own dental practice in the first instance.  The practice will outline their out-of-hours arrangements or advise you to contact the Emergency Dental Clinic directly.If they are not registered with a dentist, they should contact a local dental practice (type dental in search box).



Patients can only normally only contact EDCs on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Over the Christmas and New Year holidays the EDCs will operate on the following dates:

• Saturday 23 December 2023

• Sunday 24 December 2023

• Monday 25 December 2023

• Tuesday 26 December 2023

• Saturday 30 December 2023

• Sunday 31 December 2023

• Monday 1 January 2024

Telephone calls will be directed to a dentist for triage and if deemed clinically necessary, advice or treatment at an EDC will be provided for the following dental conditions:

• Dental swelling (spreading infection).

• Trauma to teeth arising from an external force.

• Uncontrolled bleeding following extraction.

• Severe dental pain not controlled by over the counter medications.

• Please note – as there is high demand for out-of-hours appointments patients may have to travel outside their area for treatment slots.

• Patients should not attend any site without an arranged appointment.

Telephone lines are open from 8.00am to 12 noon - 028 2566 3510.



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.


This service is for genuine emergencies that cannot wait until the next working day. Contact the Regional Emergency Social Work Service on telephone number 0800 197 9995.


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