Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England launch a major campaign to help people stay well over the winter months.
The Stay Well This Winter campaign begins with a national flu vaccination programme for children. This year the programme is being extended to children in school years 1 and 2, and aims to help 3 million children between the ages of 2 and 6.
For the first time, the youngest primary school children in 17,000 schools will be eligible to receive the free nasal spray vaccine, making this the largest school-based vaccination programme ever in England.
As in previous years, the adult flu vaccine will also be offered for free to those in groups at particular risk of infection and complications from flu. The groups being offered the adult flu vaccine are:
- pregnant women
- those aged 65 or over
- those aged under 65 with long-term conditions
- people who receive a carer’s allowance or who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if they are ill
As well as protecting against flu, the NHS Stay Well this Winter campaign will give advice on how to avoid common illness to people over 65 or those with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease or respiratory illness.
The campaign’s messages are:
- make sure you get the flu jab if eligible
- keep yourself warm - heat your home to least 18 degrees C (or 65F) if you can
- if you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, then get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious
- make sure you get your prescription medicines before pharmacies close on Christmas Eve
- always take your prescribed medicines as directed
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said:
Let me be crystal clear - flu kills. For many people it is an unpleasant illness but for the most vulnerable in society it is extremely dangerous and can be lethal.
Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from catching flu and I would urge everyone who is offered the vaccine free on the NHS to get vaccinated.
A pilot programme last year showed vaccinating children had dual benefit: as well as protecting them from flu, it also protects others, such as parent, grandparents and siblings, as children are ‘super spreaders’ and are much more likely to infect others.
Parents are encouraged to complete consent forms to allow immunisation teams to give the nasal spray flu vaccine to their children. Those children in areas not offering vaccination at school will be able to have vaccination at their local GP or pharmacy.
Professor Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at PHE, said:
If you have children aged 2, 3 or 4, or in school years 1 and 2, don’t put off taking up their free flu vaccination this season.
GPs are offering the vaccine to children aged 2 to 4 years and in the majority of areas in England it will be offered to children in school years 1 and 2. The nasal spray vaccination is quick, effective and painless, and remains the best way to help you and your family stay well this winter.
Preparations in the NHS
All frontline NHS staff will once again be offered a free flu jab this season in order to protect themselves and patients from infection. Last year only 54% of staff were vaccinated. NHS leaders are today encouraging them to take up this offer as part of their duty to protect patients and keep them safe.
Commenting on the Stay Well This Winter campaign, Keith Willett, National Director for Acute Care for NHS England said:
We are making sure we give people the information they need to help them to look after themselves and also to know where to go for urgent advice - whether it’s pharmacies, NHS Choices, NHS111 or A&E.
The NHS has strengthened planning for winter this year with work starting earlier than before. Funding was provided to local health systems via clinical commissioning groups in April 2015, and for the first time included in their baseline allocation, to ensure local urgent and emergency care and planned services are sustainable year round.
To improve services for the public over the longer term, the NHS is also continuing with the urgent care review. This involves redesigning the urgent care system to reduce the rise in emergency admissions that have put pressures on hospitals and ensuring the public can get the right care, in the right place, every day of the week.
Eight areas across the country have introduced new approaches to improve the coordination of urgent and emergency care services. Work is also underway to bring NHS 111 and out of hours GP services closer together to provide patients with a ‘new front door’ to urgent health care services.
The new service will offer patients improved access to a new 24/7 urgent clinical assessment, advice and treatment service.
PHE has also published its cold weather plan today which aims to prevent major avoidable effects on health during cold weather.