Column by Ben Stokes, South Gloucestershire Council's cabinet member for adults and housing.

The local health and care system is now in its highest state of alert, reflecting the level of pressure being felt across NHS services. We are joining partners across the region to encourage people to stay away from busy emergency departments and minor injuries units unless absolutely necessary.

By practising self-care, we help health professionals care for those who really need their expertise.

There is lots of helpful advice out there. This past week, during national Self-Care Week, doctors and pharmacists in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have been encouraging people to get ‘self-care aware’ by practising a healthy lifestyle and familiarising themselves with how to treat minor ailments and illnesses at home.

They have shared seven top tips which I have summarised here:

Get the right advice - self-care advice and help with treating very minor ailments is available from your local GP and pharmacist, the NHS website – and the Self Care Forum –

For parents/carers of young children, there’s the free NHS HANDi App which gives specialist, up-to-date advice on common childhood illnesses. Additionally, children’s charity Barnado’s has a new multilingual helpline 0800 151 2605 offering advice about respiratory illnesses in children aged 0-3 for parents/carers from Black, Asian and Minority communities.

Talk to a pharmacist - pharmacies are a great source of expert advice on a wide range of winter illnesses. Community pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals who can offer clinical advice as well as over-the-counter medicines.

Keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet - you can help yourself (and your family) feel better or recover from minor illnesses at home if you have the right medicines. Your community pharmacist can advise you on the best options, and, importantly, which products are suitable for children.

Manage long-term conditions - self-management helps people with long-term conditions like diabetes, arthritis or asthma to take control of their treatment by finding out more about their condition, learning skills to manage their health and working in partnership with their health team.

Your GP can help you develop an action plan and your pharmacist can also help with a medication review.

Reduce alcohol intake and give up smoking - stopping smoking and reducing your alcohol intake is a powerful way to self-care for the long term and minimise your chances of a wide range of health problems.

Stay active - whatever your age, there’s strong evidence that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life. Try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 20 minutes of physical activity per day.

Eat well - eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health and can help you feel your best.

You can find information about local services for all of the above topics as well as a wide range of self-help tools and digital apps by visiting our One You South Gloucestershire website