Looking after your health over Christmas

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Christmas is a time that people naturally want to see their family and friends, but we would urge everybody to be as careful as they possibly can and ensure you continue to follow the Government guidance.

Winter is always a challenging time for the NHS and wider social care services. This year, as we continue to respond to COVID-19, all hospitals within Lancashire and South Cumbria continue to work together and have plans in place to manage increased demand on our services.

Anyone with concerns should continue to come forward for help and treatment. It is important that unless you are contacted, you should continue to attend appointments as planned.

Where to go to access healthcare services

If you do need to access healthcare services over the festive period, make sure you use the right service for your needs so that we can keep services available for everybody who needs them.

If you have coronavirus symptoms, then you and those you live with should immediately self-isolate and get a coronavirus test: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.

Throughout the winter months, there are some things you can treat yourself at home, for example small cuts and grazes or coughs and colds – so it’s important to keep your medicine cabinet well stocked. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society recommends you include the following in your medicine cabinet:

  • A first-aid kit, including bandages, plasters, a thermometer, antiseptic, eyewash solution, sterile dressings, medical tape for dressings and tweezers
  • Pain relief such as aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen for aches, pains and high temperatures
  • Oral rehydration salts to replace lost minerals and fluid after a fever or vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Anti-diarrhoea tablets to relieve symptoms of diarrhoea, although these will not help with the underlying cause
  • Antihistamines which can help with allergies
  • Indigestion relief remedies

You can pick up all these items at your local pharmacy, which is also where you can go to get health advice.Pharmacy Advice

Ben Merriman, a GP Practice Pharmacist working in Morecambe Bay, said: “Remember your pharmacist is an expert who can advise you about any medications you have been prescribed and give you clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses. Pop into your local pharmacy where you can be sure to get the best health advice – and you don’t need an appointment.”

Please note: not all pharmacies will be open over the Christmas bank holidays.

GP practices will only be closed on the bank holidays over Christmas and New Year and remember that the rest of the time you can access GP appointments in the evening and weekends by calling your practice and requesting an appointment.

If you have an urgent medical issue, your first thought might be to visit A&E but it may not be the right place for you. By contacting NHS 111 first, either by phoning 111 or visiting 111.nhs.uk, the service can ensure you access the most appropriate health service for you.

Dr Jim Hacking, GP Executive Lead for Urgent Care at Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “People who need emergency care should still call 999 straight away. Those people who are not in serious danger but need urgent attention should contact NHS 111 First either by telephone or online.

“They will speak to a trained professional and a clinician if needed. If it is decided they should go to the Emergency Department (A&E) then they will be given a suitable time to attend and staff at the hospital will be expecting them.”

If it is a life-threatening situation you should phone 999 immediately.

Your child’s health over Christmas

If you’re looking after children over Christmas, it’s helpful to know about common illnesses, such as coughs and colds, so that you can treat your child.

Ensuring you have a well-stocked medicine cupboard is essential, with items such as pain relief, cough medicine, oral rehydration sachets and a first aid kit.

The most common illness for a child at this time of year is a cold. Symptoms include sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, coughing, sore throat and red, watery eyes. Sometimes there are other symptoms such as chills, aches and mild fever.

Flu is another illness which is around at this time of year and so it’s important that children are vaccinated at the earliest opportunity. Many people think that flu is like a bad cold, but symptoms include a sudden fever, chills and shakes, fatigue, aching muscles, a cough, nausea and vomiting. If your child is at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill and your GP practice is closed, call NHS 111 for advice.

If your child displays any symptoms of coronavirus (a new continuous cough, high fever and loss of taste or smell) then you should arrange to get a test to check if they have coronavirus as soon as possible. You, your child and anyone else you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get the test result – only leave your home to have the test. Read more about coronavirus in children here:
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/coronavirus-in-childrenWash hands image

Many illnesses, including coronavirus, can be avoided by good hygiene so make sure your child washes their hands regularly - particularly after going to the toilet and before eating, to help reduce the spread of germs. Washing hands also lowers the risk of catching norovirus, which is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

If your child needs urgent medical attention call your usual out-of-hours GP services, contact NHS 111 by phone or online at 111.nhs.uk to be directed to the most appropriate local health service (for children under 5 call 111) or if it’s a life-threatening issue, dial 999.

Looking after your mental health over Christmas

As we navigate through the Christmas holidays, it’s important to look after your mental health. The festive period can be a difficult time for many people, but this year it will be especially so, due to the fact that many plans have had to change in order to stay safe and protect each other from coronavirus.

There is plenty of help available to support those who are struggling, take a look at a list of mental health support across Lancashire and South Cumbria: https://www.healthierlsc.co.uk/MentalHealthSupport

Two online anonymous counselling services are available; Kooth for under 18s and Togetherall for over 18s. Both online support services offer access to an anonymous online community where you can share experiences with other supportive members along with useful information and resources to help you.

The Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust Wellbeing and Mental Health Helpline is a freephone, out of hours, person-centred listening environment for people requiring emotional support in relation to their own mental health or that of someone they know.

The Helpline aims to empower callers through active listening and information to make their own choices about how their health care needs may be met. Fully trained volunteers operate the helpline, they offer their time to listen and support callers.

Telephone: 0800 915 4640, open Monday – Friday 7pm until 11pm and Saturday – Sunday 12 noon – 12 midnight.

Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS Mental Health Deputy Director, Paul Hopley said: “I cannot overstate how important it is for people to keep talking to one another on the run up to Christmas. This can be a very difficult time for a lot of people, who have already had a challenging year.

“Anyone struggling should call Samaritans on 116123, the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000, or any of the organisations we have listed on our website healthierlsc.co.uk/MentalHealthSupport.”

Urgent Mental Health Crisis LineLSCFt crisis helpline

If you need urgent help as you are in mental health distress, then there is always someone you can call.

Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust’s Mental Health Crisis line is staffed by trained mental health professionals who are able to provide assessment and referrals to appropriate services – ring it if you need to access services or for advice about someone who needs treatment/support.

The Mental Health Crisis line is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, call 0800 953 0110 or you can find the local numbers here:

Be kind to yourself and be a winter friend

If you’d rather not talk to others about how you’re feeling, there are other things you can do to improve your mood, such as going out for a walk and some fresh air, journaling (writing down your feelings in a private place), joining an anonymous online mental health support forum, such as Togetherall (or Kooth if you’re under 18) or even just making a list of things that you can be grateful for.

Being kind to others is especially important this year – you never know what other people are experiencing and difficult home circumstances can lead to shorter tempers and becoming easily frustrated. As we navigate through this festive season, try to be your kindest self. Just a friendly smile to a passer-by can make their day seem less challenging and we’re all in need of a smile at the moment.

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCft) and partners launched a new campaign to beat loneliness and help those struggling with their mental health this winter.

The campaign comes following the recognition that there is a real need for everyone to act now to support people who are at risk of being lonely and socially isolated during this winter.

The campaign asks everyone to look out for someone else this winter, whether that’s family, friends, people in the community, vulnerable neighbours or anyone on the street who may need some support. It also asks everyone to share their stories using the hashtag #BeaWinterFriend to help continue to spread hope and generosity. Find out more about who is involved and how you can support here: https://www.lscft.nhs.uk/news/841  

6 tips for staying well in winter

We are also encouraging people across Morecambe Bay to make a real difference in our community and support health and care services this winter by helping to look out for their friends, neighbours, loved ones and those who are most vulnerable and at risk from flu and Covid-19.

Dr Andy Knox, GP and Director of Population Health in Morecambe Bay, said:

“It is really important that we work together across our communities to support those who are most vulnerable this winter. We can all play an important role in this by looking out for our loved ones and neighbours. Let’s do it for our community.”

There are some simple actions you can take to stay well this winter:

A - Ask for help - If you're struggling with your mental or physical health, ask for help from your GP or mental health services.

B - Blood pressure - Keep your blood pressure low to protect you from heart attacks and strokes.

C – Covid - Wash your hands regularly, wear your face mask and keep two metres space. Follow the rules and if you've got symptoms, get a test and self-isolate.

D - Diet - Eat a healthy diet – low sugar, low carbs, low salt, low alcohol. Eat lots of vegetables, more protein and vitamin B.

E – Exercise - Try and get out for a 20-minute walk every day, or do some high intensity training at home or even some chair-based exercises.

F - Have a flu jab - If you're entitled to a flu jab on the NHS, get it done to help you stay healthy and well this winter.

Find out more: https://healthierlsc.co.uk/KeepWellThisWinter

Lets do it for LSC NHS Tips summary