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Your spotlight on local services

It's more important than ever to stay well and healthy this winter advises leading GP


At the start of this year’s annual Self-Care Week (16th to 22nd November), GPs in East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen are advising people to keep medicine cabinets fully stocked this winter.

Winter this year, with the added burden of coronavirus (COVID-19) in circulation, could be an exceptionally challenging time for the NHS, particularly urgent and emergency care services. People living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, respiratory disease (severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or bronchitis), heart disease, kidney or liver disease, or neurological disease, are particularly vulnerable when the temperatures drop.

Dr David White, a GP in Burnley and the clinical lead for urgent care at Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “It is really important that everybody does all they can to stay safe and well this winter and protect themselves from the flu and other winter viruses.

“Venturing out in extremely cold weather can easily make an existing illness worse, which makes it all the more important to stock up on medicine while you can. To manage winter illness symptoms at home, you should keep warm, rest, drink plenty of fluids, have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up and use over-the-counter medications to help give relief.”

You can ask your pharmacist what medicines should be in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season. Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments such as colds, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache). Your pharmacist can help if you need any advice. For more information search ‘medicine cabinet’ on www.nhs.uk

Don’t go to a pharmacy if you have symptoms of coronavirus or are self-isolating. You can order prescriptions via GP or pharmacy websites and apps or by calling them. Ask a friend, relative or volunteer to collect medicines for you. You can also order your repeat prescriptions via the NHS App, as well as make GP appointments. The NHS App is available on the App Store and on Google Play. For more information visit www.nhs.uk/nhsapp

NHS Volunteer Responders offer help to people in need of support or who are avoiding public places during the pandemic. You can get help if you are currently not supported and need assistance with shopping, a prescription collection, topping up energy meters or a friendly chat. If you need help, call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm).

Dr White added: “It is crucial to get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available if you are in an ‘at risk’ category for flu, are a carer, or live in the same house as someone on the NHS shielded list. If you fall into one of these categories then you are entitled to a free flu vaccination. Please visit your GP, local community pharmacist or supermarket for your flu vaccination. In addition, please make sure you wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitiser when out and about, catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and throw it away immediately, and, wear a face covering when needed and keep 2 meters apart.”

Five things we recommend you do:

•             Make sure you get your flu jab

•             Keep your home at 18°C (65°F) or higher if you can

•             Take advantage of financial schemes and discounts to help you pay for heating

•             Contact NHS 111 online or by phone if you are worried about any symptoms

•             Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over the winter.

For more information on staying well this winter visit https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/keep-warm-keep-well/