My View, Dr Nick Tupper: What you can do to stay safer in the cold

Public Health England handout photo of actress Barbara Windsor, who is backing the 'Stay Well This Winter' campaign, a joint initiative from NHS England and Public Health England (PHE). Pic .Public Health England/PA Wire

Public Health England handout photo of actress Barbara Windsor, who is backing the 'Stay Well This Winter' campaign, a joint initiative from NHS England and Public Health England (PHE). Pic .Public Health England/PA Wire

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Brrrr!The temperatures have dropped a few degrees in Doncaster and straight away we start thinking of winter.

Winter is a crucial time for the local NHS as it can put services under strain if a lot of people need them at once.

So it’s vital that you try and stay well over the coming months and, importantly, please keep an eye on older people who may need a bit of help as the seasonal temperatures plummet.

This is the time of year when those who have long term health problems, are most at risk. Winter can be a killer. In 2013/14 there were 110 ‘excess winter deaths’ in Doncaster - the increase in the death rate that occurs each winter when the weather takes its toll on the frail.

The NHS has produced an acronym of messages which spells out W-I-N-T-E-R, aimed at those who are most vulnerable when the weather turns bad. It’s a good list to refer to:

■ Warm: Keep your house warm this winter at least 18°C (65F)

■ Immunisations: Get your flu vaccination

■ Neighbours: Keep an eye on elderly neighbours and relatives

■ Timely: Seek advice from a pharmacist at first sign of illness

■ Enough: Pick up repeat prescriptions so you have enough while pharmacies/surgeries are closed

■ Restock: Make sure you have enough food and medicine in the cupboards

The messages are being reinforced by celebrities like Barbara Windsor, Ainsley Harriott and Joey Essex as part of a national publicity campaign – so look out for it.

It’s the simplest things we sometimes forget, but if we remember them they can make a big difference. The Stay Well This Winter campaign is a great way of reminding you about things you can do to make sure you protect yourself as the cold weather sets in. That means staying warm, stocking up on prescription medicines and checking in on friends and neighbours to make sure they are keeping well.

The staggering reality is over a million people in this country say they are lonely. I know Doncaster folk are very caring so I hope this initiative will reinforce their natural instinct to keep an eye on elderly neighbours and relatives. Simple actions like making a phone call to say hello or ensuring a loved one has stocked up on prescription medicines takes no time at all but can make a difference.

It’s critical we all do what we can help others stay well this winter. Think of the elderly. Half live alone and one third only occasionally socialise if at all, so they are slow to seek help. Those who are frail can get very sick very quickly – even a cold can end up with a stay in hospital. Let’s remind everyone that Doncaster cares.

For more information go to: NHS Stay Well