A general practice on the south coast is using a giant advent calendar in its high-street windows to help patients stay well during the winter.

Pharmacist partner in the Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre Shilpa Patel told The Pharmacist that the self-care display is intended to educate patients, tackle misinformation, and relieve winter pressures on the practice.

One of the foot-high Christmas-decorated boxes will be opened each day throughout December, each revealing a display about a different area of self-care, with a QR code linking to relevant information.

Each display has been created by a member of the practice staff, who Ms Patel said have been able to ‘have a bit of fun with it’.

One staff member has crocheted a display for children, educating people about children’s health, while another has created a display encouraging people to stop smoking.

Several of the boxes focus on non-medicinal therapy, such as art therapy, drama therapy, and singing therapy, since the surgery employs therapists working in these areas.

And others focus on mental health, wellness, and the importance of getting out in nature.

‘We’re on the high street in Brighton and I think a lot of people walk past and a lot of people know us in the community, so hopefully it will become a big talking point,’ Ms Patel told The Pharmacist.

‘It might just mean that people get talking more about self-care and how to deal with these conditions,’ she added.

She also hopes that the campaign will help to tackle health misinformation.

‘We found that [patients] don't always know what sources they can use or what websites they should be using,’ Ms Patel told The Pharmacist.

Each box contains a QR code that directs patients to information on the practice website, as well as to the NHS website and other relevant and trusted online sources.

The practice has also been creating a series of online resources to reduce demand on appointments.

‘We've got four main GPs, who are very well respected in the community’, Ms Patel told The Pharmacist.

Each of the GPs have recorded videos which are published on YouTube and linked from the practice website.

The videos discuss how infections are diagnosed, when patients may or may not need to see a doctor, and when they could see a community pharmacist.

The practice has also worked with local community pharmacists to redesign the self-care section on its website, including directing people to see a community pharmacist where appropriate.

And one doctor is creating a weekly podcast responding to common queries and conditions.

Ms Patel said patients often do not believe the practice receptionist or a pharmacist when they are told that they do not need a doctor’s appointment but would believe the GP.

Patients trying to book an appointment can then be directed to the videos so that they can hear the information from a GP.

And starting last month, the practice is trialling live group mental health support sessions, run by one of the GPs from 6.00-6.30pm each evening.

Ms Patel said that the practice has a lot of patients with mental health issues, including some who experience severe mental health problems, self-harm or are suicidal.

The sessions provide wellbeing advice, breathing exercises and contact with a doctor, and can be joined as many times as patients would like to once they have been referred to the service.

Patients can join with their camera on or off and can choose to be anonymous, or interact with the doctor on the call.

The practice has previously trialled in-person support sessions, but hopes that an online approach will work well for people with low mood or otherwise in need of mental health support.

A general practice on the south coast is using a giant advent calendar in its high-street windows to help patients stay well during the winter.