Welcome to this month’s column about health services in Morpeth.
As the schools are back, the weather’s turned and we’re into autumn, I’m going to take this opportunity to give you some early advice about staying well this winter.
It may seem a little while off, however, it’s never too early to be prepared.
But before I get into that, I first would like to mention the Tour of Britain.
What a great event this was and a fantastic advert for Northumberland.
We were pleased that it came through Morpeth and it was amazing to see so many people out on the streets supporting the riders.
As well as promoting our wonderful county, we hope that it will encourage people to get active.
You don’t have to cover anything like the distance the Tour of Britain riders did, but getting out on your bike for a family bike ride, or, in fact, doing any form of physical activity, has real health benefits.
And with the Great North Run earlier in the month, doing exercise has certainly been in the spotlight.
This year we had the highest number of people running in the event for our Bright charity that we’ve ever had — around 70.
A big well done to all our 2017 runners, who have raised thousands of pounds to help us provide the extras that really make a difference to our patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside.
Funds raised from this, and other charitable donations, enables the Bright charity to support many valuable initiatives each year, which improve our patients’ experiences in hospital.
These include new specialist equipment, toys for children in hospital, relaxing outdoor garden spaces, social activities for patients, and more.
As I mentioned at the start of this column, it’s never too early to start thinking about what you can do to take steps to stay healthy over the winter months.
Like the NHS across the country, last winter was extremely busy, with unprecedented demand for our urgent and emergency care services, and it’s really important that people take accountability for looking after themselves well and using NHS services wisely.
Next month the NHS will launch its Stay Well This Winter campaign to help everyone, but especially people with long-term conditions and those over 65, prepare for the cold weather and ward off common winter illnesses.
As a trust, we will be supporting this campaign and encouraging people to make sure they’re in the best possible position to keep well over the winter months.
Cold weather can be very harmful, especially for people aged 65 or older, as it weakens the immune system, increases blood pressure, thickens the blood and lowers body temperature, increasing risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and chest infections.
And for people with long-term conditions, such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes or heart and kidney problems, cold weather and winter illnesses such as flu can make health problems far worse.
If you are eligible for a free flu vaccination from the NHS, please take up this offer and get one.
This includes people aged 65 and over, pregnant women and those with long-term health conditions, or those who have suffered a stroke — the people who are at increased risk from the effects of flu.
Make an appointment at your GP practice as soon as you’re able to, or speak to your GP if you’re not sure whether you’re eligible.
Very young children are also eligible so if you’re a parent of a two, three or four-year-old, please get them vaccinated.
It’s really important to keep warm in winter — both inside and outdoors — as it can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
Your home should be heated to at least 18C (65°F). If you can, you might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer.
At the first sign of a cough or a cold, you should get help from your pharmacist before it becomes more serious.
And make sure you speak to your pharmacist about medicines you should have at home to help get you and your family through the winter season.
By taking these steps it will help to prepare you and your family for winter.
If you experience problems that are urgent and cannot be looked after by practising self-care at home, or visiting a pharmacy or a GP, we’d urge you to ring NHS 111 for advice on which service to access.
The service is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and an advisor will direct you to the most appropriate place for the severity of your condition.
Our urgent care centre at Wansbeck General Hospital is open for urgent walk-in conditions that are not life-threatening.
Of course, if you have a serious life-threatening emergency, please ring 999.
Please do not attend the Northumbria hospital for anything other than a serious emergency to enable this vital facility to be kept for those who need it most.
During winter there tends to be more bugs around. However, please remember do not come into hospital if you have symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting as these can easily spread to patients in hospital. Please wait until you’re symptom-free for 48 hours.
We know how important it is for patients who are staying in hospital to hear from their loved ones so if you are ill and unable to visit in person, please ring the ward and the team can arrange for you to speak to your friend or relative.
I hope you will find this advice useful to not only help you stay well this winter, but also to play your part in helping the NHS run as efficiently as it can over the busy winter months.
Before I sign off, I wanted to mention that Julia Mann, from Morpeth, has been re-elected for a further three years as a public governor for the area.
Ms Mann joins existing governors Brian Kipling, David Wilkinson and John Nesbitt-Young in representing the views of residents and helping us build links with the communities we serve.
Thank you for contributing your time, experience and expertise to help us develop local services that are fit for the future and meet the needs of the people we serve.
For more information about our governors and our Bright charity visit our website at www.northumbria.nhs.uk
You can also keep an eye out for information about the national Stay Well This Winter campaign, as well as follow us online for information.