Monthly Archives: November 2015

‘In the know’

Are you clued up about the links to cancer from alcohol? Find out the risks as well as details on Anti-Bullying and Self-Care and how to ‘Stay well this winter’


Don’t overuse antibiotics this winter

As the NHS steps up its Stay Well This Winter campaign this week, GPs in the North East are highlighting their concerns about the level of public demand for antibiotics.

With the NHS’s busiest time of year approaching, doctors are keen to challenge the common perception that antibiotics are the stock solution for common winter ailments.

Nine out of ten GPs say that patients visiting their surgery expect to be prescribed antibiotics for winter ailments, when in fact the drugs have little or no effect on coughs and colds.

As the season of coughs, colds and viruses gets underway, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the region are keen to bust the myths about antibiotics:

Antibiotic mythbuster
  • Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate – bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, which means they no longer work
  • Many patients expect their GP to prescribe them antibiotics, even for cases that will get better naturally or respond better with other treatments
  • Antibiotics do not work for ALL colds, or for most coughs, sore throats or earache. Your body can usually fight these infections on its own
  • Antibiotics can also cause side effects such as rashes, stomach pains and reactions to sunlight
  • Producing green phlegm or snot is not always a sign of a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics to get better
  • Most infections that result in you producing lots of phlegm or snot are viral illnesses and will get better on their own, although you can expect to feel poorly for a few weeks.

Dr Janet Walker, Chair of NHS South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It’s time for an honest conversation between doctor and patient that asks ‘are these absolutely necessary?’ to ensure that we save them until they are really needed.

“It’s important that we use antibiotics in the right way, at the right dose to ensure they are most effective.

“Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, becoming resistant so that it no longer works. The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it.

“Antibiotics can also have side effects as they upset the natural balance of bacteria potentially resulting in diarrhoea and/or thrush. Inappropriate use of antibiotics may also allow other more harmful bacteria to increase. The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is plenty of fluids and rest.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, has warned that antimicrobial resistance poses a potentially ‘catastrophic threat’ to our future health, if we do not act now.

The warning comes as the NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign steps up a gear in the region to coincide with European Antibiotics Awareness Day on 18 November. The national Stay Well This Winter campaign was launched last month by NHS England and Public Health England, with advertising and promotional activity taking place throughout winter.

Now the region’s CCGs are lending their weight to the campaign with additional online, on-street and bus advertising as well as a link-up with radio stations Metro, Magic and TFM.

Alongside the concern to preserve antibiotics, the regional focus is on encouraging people to prepare for common winter ailments which can be easily treated at home or with advice from a pharmacist – keeping valuable appointments with doctors and nurses open for those who really need them.

The campaign will continue throughout the busy Christmas holiday period, targeting people who are usually in good health and perhaps wake up one morning feeling under the weather and don’t know what to do.

For more information about keeping well in winter, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell.


Stay well this winter

NHS organisations in the North East are stepping up their winter campaign this week, with a strong message to help people in the region Stay Well This Winter.

The national Stay Well This Winter campaign was launched last month by NHS England and Public Health England, with advertising and promotional activity taking place throughout winter.

Now the campaign in the North East is moving up a gear, with online, on-street and bus advertising as well as a link-up with radio stations Metro, Magic and TFM.

The regional focus is led by the North East’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), who are encouraging people to prepare for common winter ailments which can be easily treated at home or with advice from a pharmacist – keeping valuable appointments with doctors and nurses open for those who really need them.

The regional spotlight will continue throughout the Christmas holiday period, traditionally the busiest time of the year for the NHS, targeting people who are usually in good health and perhaps wake up one morning feeling under the weather and don’t know what to do.

Dr Janet Walker, Chair of NHS South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Demand for NHS services goes up during the winter months, so it’s crucial that services are available for people who need them most.

“Winter weather means more slips and trips – and generally more of us feeling unwell as we spend more time indoors and coughs, colds and other viruses are passed around.

“That adds up to more people wanting to see their GP, attend Accident and Emergency or call 999. But it’s important to stop and consider the best service for your needs.

“Most normally healthy people with a winter illness do not need to see their GP, attend A&E and absolutely do not need to call 999. Colds, sore throats, headaches, hangovers, upset stomachs, coughs, aches, pains, and winter vomiting should all be treated at home or with advice from a local pharmacist, with painkillers, rest and plenty of fluids.

“That way you helping to reduce the spread of winter viruses and also keeping appointments available for people with serious health conditions who must see a doctor or nurse.”

For more information about keeping well in winter, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell.


Be an antibiotic guardian

It’s antibiotic awareness week this week. I won’t apologise for talking about antibiotics again as we have such a problem with using them more than we should be.

Again I’m going to ask you to consider becoming an antibiotic guardian follow the link to find out how. http://antibioticguardian.com/

Tell your family and friends, spread the word that antibiotics don’t work for viruses. Keep them for when they are needed and we’ll have antibiotics that will still work now and in the future.

Please don’t let this make you afraid to take antibiotics ,  If you  have been prescribed them , do follow the instructions as to how to take them and finish the course.


Coughs and sneezes

Many of you reading this will be coughing and sneezing with a virus – more common throughout the winter months. Your community pharmacy can advise you what you need to keep in stock at home for when that virus may strike.  The flu virus can cause more problems especially to the elderly, pregnant women and to those adults and children with a long term health problem that puts them into a higher risk of becoming more severely unwell .  It isn’t too late to get your flu jab at your GP surgery. Younger children are getting nasal flu vaccination as they are often the spreaders of the flu virus as they can be less discerning about who or what they cough or sneeze over .

Thinking of bodily secretions , let me bust a myth about yellow or green nasal discharge (snot to me and my patients) or phlegm.(stuff that you cough off your chest) As a student  I learnt about how it is the bodies’ own infection fighting defences that act on the snot that can make it change from clear and watery to thicker and yellowy green.  Coughing up blood could suggest something more sinister so please see your GP if this happens. My sister thought that she needed antibiotics just because  things turned green , and then if she got them from her GP wouldn’t finish the course because she’d already started to feel better , or had got a very common side-effect of the antibiotics  and stopped them when she felt sick.

We have a problem with our use of antibiotics for all these reasons because taking them when they are not needed and not completing a prescribed course of treatment are all factors that increase antibiotic resistance . What that means is that the antibiotics we would normally rely upon to kill or arrest the disease causing bacteria just don’t work and we have to use stronger and stronger ones to treat the infection.  The reality is that antibiotic resistance is increasing and we all have our part to play to stop this. Doctors and nurses should only prescribe them when they are needed, all patients need to really listen and learn that antibiotics don’t work against viruses. If you have a bacterial infection and you have been given an antibiotic take it as prescribed and finish the course.

At the CCG we are asking all our GP practices, our patients and the public if they would like to become an antibiotic guardian.  Public Health England  are running  the campaign and I would really appreciate you taking the time to follow this link to learn more about what we can all do to ensure we have antibiotics to use in the future http://antibioticguardian.com/


Winter’s coming!

The clocks changing, with darker evenings and the wet windy autumnal weather all signal that winter is coming. Already our local health care services are experiencing the pressures of increased illnesses relating to more seasonal respiratory viruses. Very recently the NHS has launched its ‘Stay Well this Winter campaign we are all urged to:

  • Make sure you get your 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.
  • Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over winter.

I don’t think we can stress enough the value of flu vaccination. Flu can be just ‘uncomfortable’ for many people but for others who are more vulnerable, the very young , the elderly and those with a chronic health condition it can be lethal. Please make contact with your GP surgery to get your flu jab. Many employers run clinics to get staff who are involved with health and social care vaccinated. Pharmacies offer vaccination to those who may find it harder to access their GP practice.

You can find out more about the new Stay Well this Winter campaign at www.nhs.uk/staywell.  Social media messaging will appear across the NHS Choices and Public Health England social channels. We would love you to follow NHS Choices on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NHSChoices and Twitter at @NHSChoices and Public Health England on Facebook www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland and Twitter @PHE-uk.  While you’re there, make sure you follow us @SouthTeesCCG!