Help us to help you stay healthy through winter

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DOCTOR CALLING: By Dr Kevin Shields

Winter is approaching, the clocks have gone back, the days are much shorter and preparations are well under way within the NHS for the expected pressures of the winter period. With this in mind can I ask you to help us to help you this winter with some advice on your own winter preparedness?

The annual flu vaccination programme is well under way both within the NHS and nationally. We strongly encourage all of our staff to get the flu jab and where possible you should, too. Flu can be a very unpleasant illness often causing several days of fever, stuffy nose, dry cough, sore throat, aching muscles and extreme tiredness. Getting the jab benefits your own health and the vulnerable around you such as the elderly, babies, pregnant women and those suffering from long term illnesses. Flu poses a serious risk to these groups so keeping risk down is crucial to ensuring we protect those we care about this winter.

The national message across the NHS this winter is that patients should choose well. This means giving thought to different services on offer based on the treatment you require in place of heading straight to A+E, whether that be your GP, an urgent care centre, a minor injuries unit, walk-in centre or your local pharmacy. Additionally there are a range of services available outside of normal GP hours, during evenings, weekends and bank holidays by calling the NHS 111 service which is a free call and is available 24 hours a day 356 days a week.

We encourage you to think pharmacy first. Local pharmacies offer many services and you don’t need to make an appointment to see them. All pharmacists can offer advice on minor ailments and if they cannot help they’ll tell you what service you should seek.

Don’t forget your pharmacist is a trained medical professional who can provide free advice on the best treatment for a wide range of illnesses and minor ailments. Also, under a scheme called Think Pharmacy First, those who receive free prescriptions can go straight to their pharmacist to receive treatment without needing to visit their GP to get a prescription first.

I also advise you to start your own general winter preparations, as the bad weather approaches start to stock up your medicine cabinets. Always follow the guidelines on medicine packets never going over the recommended dosage. Remember to keep your medicines out of sight and reach of children and to check expiry dates before use.

Choose well this winter and help us to help you stay safe and healthy.