The winter months can be challenging for many Surrey residents, and add more pressure to NHS services during periods of extreme weather. Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially for those aged 65 and over, or if you have a long-term health condition. Even for those in full health, winter can bring with it coughs, colds and flu bugs.
Stay healthy and well this winter and be prepared using the advice below. Seek help when needed using the most appropriate local NHS services listed below, and stock your medicine cabinet with the essentials to keep you and your family well this season.
There is also a range of very helpful resources on the Healthy Surrey website.
On this page you will find information on:
- Accessing NHS Services
- Flu Vaccination
- Pharmacy advice
- NHS 111
- What you should keep in your medicine cabinet
- Checking in on the vulnerable
- Keeping your house warm
- Local support across Surrey
If you have a symptom that could be cancer (such as unexplained blood that doesn’t come from an obvious injury, an unexplained lump, weight loss which feels significant to you or an unexplained pain that doesn’t go away) a maternity concern, or a routine appointment, the NHS is here to help you and can see you safely.
If you have a routine appointment, make sure you keep it, unless recommended otherwise by your doctor. If you are told to go to hospital for a routine appointment, then the NHS has measures in place to make sure that it safe for you to do so.
No staff who have COVID-19 symptoms or come into contact with someone with symptoms are allowed to work in the hospital meaning the NHS can see you in a safe environment.
If you are pregnant, it is crucial that you still attend your antenatal appointments and continue to seek advice from your midwife or maternity team to ensure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. If you are worried about your health or the health of your unborn baby, please do not hesitate to contact your midwife or maternity team.
Women of a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background may be at higher risk of complications of coronavirus. Maternity services have been asked to take extra precautions to keep women at greatest risk safe and everyone should seek advice without delay if they are concerned about their or their baby’s health.
Midwives have worked hard to make sure you still have a personal and safe maternity experience during this time, but some services will need to adapt. This could mean having telephone or video consultations or attending your antenatal appointments in a different setting. Your midwife will have more details about what is happening in your area.
If you’ve had unexplained blood that doesn’t come from an obvious injury (such as blood in your poo or pee), an unexplained lump, weight loss which feels significant to you or an unexplained pain that lasts three weeks or more, it could be a sign of cancer. It’s probably nothing serious, but finding cancer early makes it more treatable, so just speak to your GP.
Getting the flu vaccination is a great way of protecting yourself from flu this winter, especially for those who are at a greater risk of developing potentially serious complications. It's also the most effective way of reducing the spread of the virus with those we come into contact with, helping ensure Surrey residents stay fit and well this winter.
The flu vaccination is available every year on the NHS to help us all against the risk of flu and its complications, and for many Surrey residents, it is completely free if you fall into one of the groups below. This year, with COVID-19 in circulation, it’s more important than ever that eligible groups are vaccinated to protect them from flu and the vaccine will be offered to more than 30 million people. The expansion of the flu programme means that many more people will be eligible to receive the free vaccine for the first time, but may not realise this.
Those eligible for a free flu vaccination:
- Pregnant women
- Children aged 2- 11 years old (on the 31 August 2020)
- Members of a shielding household
- 65 years and older
- Have a long-term condition (see a full list on the NHS website).
- a heart problem
- a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma
- a kidney disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
- liver disease
- had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- a neurological condition, e.g. multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy
- a learning disability
- a problem with your spleen, e.g. sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
- are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)
- Those living in a residential or nursing home
- The main unpaid carer of an older person or disabled person. (Action for Carers provide more information on the Surrey Carers flu voucher scheme)
- Frontline health and social care workers
- Health and social care workers employed through Direct Payment (personal budgets) and or Personal Health Budgets (such as Personal Assistants) to deliver domiciliary care to patients and service users
If you are aged between 50 and 64 you will be invited to get your free flu vaccine from the beginning of December and into the New Year as part of this year’s expanded flu vaccination programme. GPs and pharmacies will be arranging appointments to coincide with delivery of new vaccine stock. Please be patient as they make plans for this and wait to be contacted. Please remember that vaccinations will continue throughout the winter season.
If you are in an at-risk group, you remain a priority for vaccination and should contact your GP or pharmacy as soon as possible for your free flu vaccine. Your GP practice and the pharmacies in your area will have a range of measures in place to keep you safe from COVID-19. Visit nhs.uk/flujab to find out more.
Check out this handy short animation to help raise awareness of flu this year and why it’s so important for those who are eligible to have theirs to help stay well this winter.
Flu vaccine availability
To help answer questions you may have concerning flu vaccine availability, please refer to the Flu Vaccination: why you are being asked to wait web page on GOV.UK. It includes a new two-page leaflet. This explains that there is sufficient vaccine available for all eligible groups and also highlights why a person who is eligible may be asked to wait for a vaccine while providing reassurance that they will be able to have one before flu season starts.
Where can I get my free flu jab?
If you're eligible for a free flu vaccination, you can have it at:
- Your GP surgery
- A local pharmacy offering the service
- Your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women
Most community pharmacists now offer flu vaccination to adults (but not children) who are at risk of flu, including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over and people with long-term health conditions.
Common flu questions answered
Discover more flu vaccine FAQs on the NHS website.
The flu vaccination winter 2020 to 2021: who should have it and why
This leaflet explains how you can help protect yourself and your children against flu this coming winter, and why it’s very important that people who are at increased risk from flu have their free vaccination every year. You'll find different language versions of this leaflet on the GOV.UK website.
The complete video of the flu vaccination winter 2020 to 2021: who should have it and why - British Sign Language version is available to view here.
Protecting your child against flu
This leaflet explains which children are eligible for flu vaccination, as well as describing the disease and the vaccine. You'll find flu vaccination for children leaflets and posters in various languages on the GOV.UK website.
Protect yourself from flu - easy read leaflet
This leaflet is aimed at people who have, or care for someone with a learning disability. You'll find flu vaccination easy read resources on the GOV.UK website.
Films about the importance of the flu vaccination for people with a learning disability:
- Click here to watch a short film that covers why it is important, who is eligible for a free vaccine, where you can get the vaccine and reasonable adjustments.
- Click here to watch a short film featuring Registered Learning Disability nurse Becky.
Films about the importance of the flu vaccination for carers of people with a learning disability:
- Click here to watch a short film for carers.
- Click here to watch a short film featuring Registered Learning Disability nurse Becky - for carers
Flu messages in Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, and Pashto:
Thank you to Oxfordshire CCG and the faith and community leaders in Oxford who produced these videos encouraging communities to get vaccinated:
Click here to listen in Urdu
Click here to listen in Punjabi
Click here to listen in Arabic
Click here to listen in Pashto
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) factsheet - Why it is essential to get vaccinated against flu
Operation Vaccination is a campaign to increase awareness in Muslim communities about the importance of getting a flu vaccination this winter 2020-21. The MCB have put together a handy fact sheet why it is essential to get vaccinated against flu which gives answers to frequently asked questions.
Help us help you by speaking with your local pharmacy team about minor health concerns before they get worse. They can help with clinical advice for all sorts of illnesses there and then, and if your symptoms suggest it's something more serious, they have the right training to ensure you get the help you need. It may also save you lots of time by receiving advice and treatment on the spot, without the need to go to your GP or A&E.
Get help early, if you are feeling unwell, don't wait, go to your nearest pharmacy.
Why visit the pharmacy?
Pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals with the clinical know-how to give you the help you need. They can assess your minor illness and recommend the right treatment, whether it's over the counter medicines, a few days rest or a bit of reassurance.
What can pharmacists help with?
They are the right people to see for minor health concerns such as:
- Sore throats
- Coughs, colds and flu
- Tummy troubles
- Aches and pains
- Red eyes
- Sleeping problems
- Athlete's foot
- Mouth ulcers
- Constipation and diarrhoea
You can talk to the pharmacist or pharmacy technician in your local pharmacy. Most people live within easy reach of one, and with many now offering longer open hours, it's easier to get the help and advice you need, without having to book an appointment.
Think you need medical help right now? Go straight to NHS 111, which is available on the phone and online. NHS 111 online is conveniently accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
NHS 111 is there for when you need medical help fast but it is not a life threatening emergency.
How NHS 111 works:
You will be asked questions about your symptoms on the website or by speaking to a trained adviser on the phone. Depending on the situation, you will then:
- Find out what local services can help you
- Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP
- Get a face to face appointment if you need one
- Be told how to get any medicine you may need
- Get self-care advice
Most common winter ailments, such as a cold, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or earache, can't be treated with antibiotics.
The best thing to do is:
What should I keep in my medicine cabinet at home?
Medicine or first aid
|What it's used for|
Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
|Effective at relieving most minor aches and pains such as headaches period pain, inflammation in arthritis and sprains|
Oral rehydration solution
|Fever, diarrhoea and vomiting make us lose water and essential minerals, and can lead to dehydration. If you have these symptoms and can't continue your normal diet, oral rehydration salts can help to restore your body's natural balance of minerals and fluid and relieve discomfort and tiredness. They don't fight the underlying cause of your illness, such as a virus or bacteria.|
|Antacids (comes in chewable tablets, or tablets that dissolve in water, or in liquid form)||We normally over indulge during the festive period and this can bring stomach ache, heartburn or trapped wind. A simple antacid will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief.|
First aid kit:
These are some of the main items that should be in your first aid kit. If you have small children - you should keep a thermometer and children's paracetamol handy, and take with you if you take trips or breaks away.
If you have any queries, your local pharmacist can advise you further on which medicines you should have in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.
Make sure you have repeat prescriptions
If you or someone your care for requires medicines regularly, make sure you order and collect repeat prescriptions in good time to ensure you or your family have enough medicine to last over the festive period and bank holidays.
Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:
Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:
Action Surrey provide information and advice on how to keep a home warm and any grants that may be available for replacement boilers and insulation.
Age UK Surrey provide information to help people stay safe, warm and well in the winter. This includes money saving tips and further advice on benefits and grants, advocacy and counselling.