Now's the time to make sure you're ready for the winter

Welcome to this month's On The Ward column about what's happening at Berwick Infirmary and within Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Thursday, 25th October 2018, 2:54 pm
Peer vaccinators Annaluisa Wood and Dawn Matthews giving staff at Berwick Infirmary their flu jabs

With the clocks going back this weekend, and winter just around the corner, I’m going to focus on how we can all take steps to ensure that we’re fully prepared for winter.

I will also inform you of what we’re doing within the trust itself to help stop the spread of flu.

The winners of Northumbria Healthcare's 2018 Building a Caring Future Staff Awards including 'unsung hero' award winner Eric McMekkin who works at Berwick Infirmary (back centre).

In addition, I will let you know how you can be more involved with our NHS trust by signing up to become a member.

We may have enjoyed a relatively mild autumn so far. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that winter will be here before we know it.

Flu vaccinations are now in full swing at GP practices right across North Northumberland.

I would urge everyone who is at increased risk of the effects of flu, and therefore eligible for a free NHS flu jab, and hasn’t already had one, to make an appointment as soon as possible.

Those at increased risk of the effects of flu include people over 65 and their carers, people with long-term health conditions, pregnant women and those who work in health and care roles.

At our trust, every year we strongly urge our frontline staff, and those who come into contact with our patients, to get a flu vaccination.

And we’re aiming for 100 per cent of every team across our trust to be vaccinated.

We all have a responsibility for the safety of our patients and by having a flu vaccination we can protect them, ourselves and our family by not spreading unnecessary germs.

At Berwick Infirmary we’re in the midst of vaccinating our staff and I’m proud to say that I’m one of two, what we call, ‘peer vaccinators’ whose role it is to vaccinate our colleagues.

The other peer vaccinator is Dawn Matthews, who you may know as manager of outpatients and the day hospital here.

This is the first year that I’ve been appointed a peer vaccinator, and I am doing it to make sure that the NHS teams here at Berwick Infirmary, and also at Alnwick Infirmary, have access to flu vaccinations at a time that is appropriate to them and during their working day.

It means that each time I’m on site our healthcare staff can access vaccinations and do not have to wait until they are able to book an appointment.

We find it’s much more effective this way, especially at community hospitals.

And, of course, it means that we have a greater uptake of the vaccination among Northumbria Healthcare staff.

This year we’ve got more peer vaccinators than ever before.

We’re dubbing the campaign ‘Fantastic Peer Vaccinators And Where To Find Them’, in the theme of Harry Potter and its recent Fantastic Beasts spin-offs.

The campaign appears to be going well so far, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve had our first ‘100 per cent team’ at Berwick Infirmary – well done to outpatients.

Having a flu vaccination is just one way to make sure that you are as prepared as you can be for the winter and the seasonal illnesses it brings.

The winter season is traditionally the time of year when pressure increases on National Health Service providers right across the country.

Winter can bring all sorts of seasonal bugs and illnesses, including coughs and colds, sickness and upset stomachs.

Although these illnesses are pretty unpleasant for the sufferers, they usually clear up within a few days to a week, and in most cases there’s no need to visit your GP about them.

You can get quick, expert and confidential advice from your local pharmacist, who can tell you the best medicines or treatment to use, depending on your symptoms.

So the important message from us is don’t leave your symptoms to get worse – ask your pharmacist for advice first.

It’s also good practice to keep a good supply of over-the-counter medicines at home, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and rehydration salts. This will help you to manage the symptoms of your illness while you recover.

For people with young children, it’s also a good idea to use the downloadable NHS child health app to check their symptoms and find out the best treatment for them.

If you do need to call on the NHS for help, first ask yourself which service is the most appropriate one for your symptoms and take the best course of action if you think you have an urgent healthcare need.

Remember that GP practices often now have extended opening times, with most of them open later in the evenings and offering weekend appointments.

And the NHS 111 service is always available should you need advice on which services to use.

This is the number you should ring to access GP services out of hours too.

Our minor injuries unit here at Berwick Infirmary treats all sorts of minor injuries.

And, of course, if it is an emergency health issue, then ring 999.

You may be aware that as a foundation trust, we are accountable to the people we serve in Northumberland and North Tyneside.

We also have greater freedom to plan local services and to respond to the needs and wishes of our local communities.

We do this by inviting residents to join our trust as members.

Anyone can join us as a member of our NHS trust and ensure that their area’s views are heard in any decision-making.

We’re always keen to encourage local people and patients who have used services to sign up and become members of our trust – and we’d like to recruit more people in the Berwick area.

As a trust member you will:

• Be informed about our work.

• Vote for governors who help shape our services and priorities.

• Be able to stand as a governor.

• Benefit from NHS discounts.

If you’d like to become a member all you need to do is visit and complete the online application form.

Alternatively, you can call the foundation membership team on 0191 203 1296.

We look forward to you joining us.

Before I sign off, I’d like to congratulate Eric McMekkin who won the Unsung Hero award at our 2018 staff awards presentation event.

Eric works tirelessly to keep the old heating system at Berwick Infirmary up and running and our patients and staff warm.

During the ‘Beast From The East’ severe weather earlier this year, when Berwick was cut off, Eric managed to travel the 15 miles from his home to work by tractor, police car and a 4x4 vehicle, such was his commitment to his role.

Well done Eric – your Unsung Hero award is certainly well deserved.