Matron's tips to staying well this winter

Welcome to this month's column, bringing you up-to-date with developments at Berwick Infirmary and giving advice on how you can help the NHS help you this winter.

Friday, 25th November 2016, 3:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:26 am
Staff in the minor injuries unit at Berwick Infirmary. Left, Joanne Grant, emergency nurse practitioner, and Eileen Knox, staff nurse.

With the cold weather almost upon us, I thought I’d start this update by giving you some helpful tips on how to look after yourself well through the winter.

As you may know, winter is an extremely busy time for the NHS.

Consultant plastic surgeon Mr Neil McLean who carries out minor plastic surgery procedures at Berwick Infirmary.

More people call on the health service’s help at this time of year, and high numbers of very ill people are needing to be admitted to hospital.

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Like the NHS across the country, last winter was our busiest on record, with unprecedented demand for our urgent and emergency care services.

That is why it is really important for people to take accountability for looking after themselves well and for using NHS services wisely.

You may have seen and heard about the health service’s Stay Well This Winter campaign.

Consultant plastic surgeon Mr Neil McLean who carries out minor plastic surgery procedures at Berwick Infirmary.

This is a joint initiative organised by NHS England and Public Health England to help people who have long-term conditions, as well as those over the age of 65, to prepare for the chilly season and help ward off common winter illnesses.

As a trust, we’re supporting this campaign and are encouraging people to take steps to make sure they are in the best possible position to keep well over the coming winter months.

Cold weather can be very harmful, especially for people aged 65 or older.

It weakens the immune system, increases blood pressure, thickens the blood and lowers body temperature, which increases the risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.

And for people with long-term conditions, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes or heart and kidney problems, cold weather and winter illnesses, such as flu, can make health problems like these far worse.

It is really important to keep warm in winter, both inside and outdoors, as this 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 (65F). If you can, you might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer.

At the first sign of a cough or cold, you should get help from your pharmacist before it gets more serious.

And also 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.

I know it may seem like a little while off yet, however make sure you plan ahead for Christmas and New Year and order, and pick up, any prescription medications well in advance of the festive break.

If you are eligible for a free flu vaccination from the NHS, please get one.

This includes people aged 65 and over, pregnant women and those with long-term health conditions, like COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, heart and kidney disease, or those who have suffered a stroke – the people who are at increased risk from the effects of flu.

You can check if you are eligible for the free flu vaccination at or speak to your GP for advice.

Very young children are also eligible so if you’re a parent of a two, three or four-year-old, please get them vaccinated.

By taking these steps it will help to prepare you and your family for winter and the health risks it can bring.

If you experience problems which are urgent and cannot be looked after by visiting a pharmacy or a GP, we would urge you to ring NHS 111 for advice on which service to access.

This 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.

If it is for a minor injury or illness, this may be our nurse-led service at Berwick Infirmary.

Our highly-skilled nursing team are on hand round-the-clock to cater for a range of conditions, such as a minor head, ear or eye problem, a broken nose or nose bleed, a sprain, strain, cut or bite, a minor fracture or a broken bone, abscess and wound infection, and children’s minor injuries.

Of course, if you have a serious or life-threatening emergency, please ring 999.

During winter there tends to be more bugs around.

However, please remember not to come into hospital if you have symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting as these can easily spread to patients. Please wait until you are symptom-free for at least 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 that you will find this advice useful to not only help you and your family to stay well this winter, but to assist you in playing your part in helping the NHS to run as efficiently as it can over the busy winter months.

As you may have heard on the national news, these are extremely challenging times for the National Health Service.

Services across the country are having to cope with increasing demands and finite resources to meet those demands.

We are not immune to these challenges, and part of our role as healthcare leaders is to continually look at the way we provide services right across the trust in order to make sure our resources and the skills of our teams are maximised at every opportunity.

I’m very proud that Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has always been passionate about providing services as close to people’s homes as possible when it is safe and sustainable to do so.

Our telemedicine service is an excellent example of this.

And I was pleased to read in last week’s Berwick Advertiser that more and more people are benefitting from our plastic surgery service here in Berwick and having all of their appointments and minor procedures locally.

Before I sign off, I wanted to let you know that work continues to go on behind the scenes on the development of a new Berwick hospital.

As was reported at the time, a decision was taken by our Trust Board in the summer to pause the development following a request by the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

This decision was influenced by a number of reasons, including ensuring that the scheme developed was fit for purpose and sustainable for the future.

We are currently working with Northumberland County Council and Northumberland CCG to work through these points.

As soon as we have a clear collective vision for the hospital development we will update you.