NHS Forth Valley is putting in place measures to reduce pressure on its services during the winter.

This includes on-the-spot testing for flu who arrive at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, an extension to the outpatient antibiotic therapy service and specialist respiratory nurses providing support in the community for people with COPD.

Musculoskeletal physiotherapists will be deployed in A&E to deal with people who suffered from a fall, said to be particularly important during spells of icy weather.

A higher demand for mental health support is also expected as the festive season can be stressful and lonely for some and so mental health nurses will be working wit GPs in the out-of-hours service at night and weekends.

As always, pharmacists across the Forth Valley region will be able to provide advice on common illnesses such as colds as well as free treatment for a range of condition without a prescription.

Local opticians can also help with a number of eye conditions, including eye infections, referring people to hospital when necessary.

GP and dental surgeries will be closed for two days at Christmas and New Year, those who are concerned about their symptoms can call NHS 24 on 111.

Andrea Fyfe, director of acute services at NHS Forth Valley, said: "Winter is the busiest time of year for the NHS and is it vital we have plans in place to cope with the increase in demand.

"We are also appealing to local people to avoid putting pressure on the emergency department by making use of other local health services for minor illnesses and injuries.

"And it is not too late for anyone eligible for a free flu jab to take up the offer."