People in the South Hams are being asked to help the county’s NHS bounce back from the longest ever period of strike action, by continuing to choose the right service for their needs.

All of the county’s main hospitals – in Plymouth and Torbay – are likely to remain under severe pressure all week, even though industrial action by junior doctors came to end on January 9.

To prevent the spread of winter illnesses, some hospital wards in Devon are still closed, which further reduces capacity at an already exceptionally busy time.

Local people can do their bit by:

Continuing to call 999 in emergency and life-threatening cases – when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk

Going to NHS 111 online if you need medical help or advice, or you are unsure about whether you should go to hospital; you can also phone 111

Checking local hospital trust websites for information on Minor Injury Units and Urgent Treatment Centres. Further information can be found here: Health Pressures – One Devon

Taking simple steps during the cold weather to look after yourselves and loved ones, checking in on vulnerable family members and neighbours. A first step is making sure your medicine cabinet is well-stocked.

Picking up loved ones who are ready to be discharged from hospital.

Making use of community pharmacies, which can advise on minor illnesses and provide medications. Details about local pharmacies be found via the interactive map here: Find a pharmacy – NHS (

If you, or someone you know, experiences a mental health crisis you can access support from a number of places:

Anthony Fitzgerald, Chief Delivery Officer for NHS Devon, said; “It is still critical that those needing emergency or life-saving care contact 999 or attend ED but we ask everyone else to choose the best service for their medical need. If your condition isn’t life-threatening, consider 111, your GP or local pharmacy first.

“Just because this period of strikes by junior doctors have ended, it doesn’t mean we are back on track – the usual January pressures are still in full force.  We have entered a period of extremely cold weather which means winter illnesses and infections are spreading quickly.”

To prevent the spread of winter illnesses people should:

Not visit loved ones in hospital if you have symptoms of a cough, cold, respiratory illness, diarrhoea or vomiting.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water as this is the best way to stop it spreading. Alcohol hand gels do not kill norovirus.

Try to stay at home and avoiding contact with other people if you come down with a winter bug and do not feel well enough to do your normal activities. Follow simple self-care tips from 

Get your flu vaccine from your GP practice or local pharmacy. Some people are eligible for the free vaccine, including over-65s, people with long term conditions like stroke or heart disease and pregnant people

Get the COVID-19 vaccine. People who are eligible for the vaccine are encouraged to attend one of the many walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics across Devon. No appointment is needed.

People should also be prepared that they may be asked to do something different this week, as a patient or a visitor. Measures such as some hospitals reducing visiting hours or re-directing people from hospital emergency departments to other services which are more appropriate for their medical needs, if it is safe to do so, may be kept in place. 

The level of escalation for the NHS in Devon has today been lowered, after reaching the highest level last Friday January 5.  Despite this, all four acute hospitals in Devon remain under a significant amount of pressure.