Monthly Archives: February 2018

Urgent advice for patients, staff and the public from region’s NHS

With the extreme weather across the North East and North Cumbria, the region’s NHS has urgent guidance for patients, staff and the public.


  • Urgent and emergency care services across the region’s hospitals are continuing to run as usual, however, please only attend if absolutely necessary as services are extremely busy.


  • Call the free NHS 111 number if you need urgent medical help or advice – GP advice is available by dialling this number and may prevent an unnecessary visit to the practice.



  • Different parts of the region are affected varyingly but the adverse weather is affecting the ability of some NHS staff to travel to their place of work. Accordingly, there has been disruption to some non-urgent hospital outpatient appointments and non-urgent operations / procedures – affected hospitals are making every effort to contact those patients as soon as possible and apologise for any inconvenience caused. Any patient who is unsure whether their appointment is going ahead should call the hospital to check.


  • If patients are unable to attend their planned hospital appointments due to the severe weather, they are also being asked to call ahead using the number provided on your original appointment letter to let the hospital know.


  • Some NHS staff have struggled to get to work due to the weather. Any staff who are not on duty but able to safely get to work are asked to get in touch with their line manager ASAP – your help and support is much appreciated.


  • Community healthcare teams may struggle to reach people at home and patients may experience delays in visits from their healthcare professional – please check on your relatives and neighbours to see that they are safe, warm and well and have enough food and medication


  • For children who are off school, please keep them safe and wrapped up warm. The ‘NHS Child Health’ app is free to download and offers advice and support if your child is poorly.


In addition, some GP practices are struggling to stay open and those affected will be contacting patients and re-arranging any routine appointments at the earliest convenience. If patients require urgent medical advice, and their GP practice is open, they will be assessed over the phone and a decision taken about the most appropriate service to access.


The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is also experiencing pressures and is asking people to consider carefully whether they need to dial 999.


Paul Liversidge, Chief Operating Officer at North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) said: “As an emergency service, we don’t stop for any weather and in the past 36 hours we have attended 1,286 incidents and answered 1,638 emergency 999 calls and 2,785 NHS111 calls.


“Our priority right now is the safety of our staff and patients travelling in adverse weather conditions. We are prioritising our resources to those patients who are critically ill – please bear with us if it takes us a little longer to access areas with heavier snow or traffic disruption.


“We have cancelled some scheduled patient transport bookings for patients with routine hospital appointments so that we can ensure our service for critically ill patients and hospital discharges is undisturbed.”


The NHS is urging patients to choose which service they use wisely, and advises the elderly and vulnerable people to keep warm, both indoors and out, and to heat their homes to at least 18C.


NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, Professor Chris Gray, said:Please take care of yourself and check that your neighbours are okay. Our advice is: if you don’t need to go out, stay in, stay warm and stay well. If you have to go out, take extra care on slippy surfaces.”


“Health advice is available by calling 111, on the NHS Choices website or from your local pharmacist or GP – please do get advice at the first sign of illness. Your local pharmacist is an excellent first point of call for advice and seeing them helps to take pressure off GPs and reduces non-emergency A&E visits.”


“I want to say a huge thank you to all of our NHS staff across the region who are working so hard to deliver the best service they can at this very difficult time.”


Cold weather can be very harmful to health and around 25,000 more people die over the course of each winter compared with other times of the year.


If you care for children, the child health app is free to download and offers a wealth of advice and support.

CANCELLED – Northern CCG Joint Committee Meeting

The Northern CCG Joint Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday March 1 has been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.

The meeting was due to take place from 3pm until 3.45pm at the Durham Centre and will now take place via teleconference. The minutes will be made available in due course.

Stay well and stock up as Siberian weather arrives

The NHS is urging people across South Tees CCG to take care of themselves and their neighbours as freezing weather blows in this week.


Cold weather can be very harmful to health and around 25,000 more people die over the course of each winter compared with other times of the year.


Exposure to cold indoor or outdoor temperatures increases blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia.


Cold temperatures can also make blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. And cold can also affect the respiratory system, which reduces the lung’s ability to fight off infection explaining why lower temperatures are linked with bronchitis and pneumonia.


The NHS advises elderly and people with long-term conditions to keep warm, both indoors and out, to heat their homes to at least 18C, and there is still time, as well as vaccine stocks, to get the flu jab to help avoid unnecessary hospital stays.


NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, Professor Chris Gray, said:Cold weather is harmful and we need to take care of ourselves and our neighbours. Please take time to check that your neighbours are okay and if you don’t need to go out, stay in and keep warm.


“It is vital that vulnerable people take preventative steps to stay well such as wrapping up warm, avoiding slips and trips on ice, stocking up medicine cabinets and making sure prescription drugs are ordered and collected.”


Colder weather is not only associated with an increase in deaths but also has a significant impact on the number of people becoming ill, increasing the winter pressures felt by health care services.


Falls are one of the main causes of older people attending accident and emergency departments and this can sometimes lead to lengthy hospital stays.


GPs and primary care clinicians see and treat 90% of all illness episodes, and for every one degree centigrade temperature drop below five degrees, there is a 10% increase in the number of older people consulting their GP for breathing problems.


Professor Gray added: “Emergency departments are under huge pressure and many winter attendances are due to issues which could have been avoided had people asked for medical advice at the first sign of illness.


“Health advice is available by calling 111, on the NHS Choices website or from your local pharmacist or GP. Your local pharmacist is trained in managing minor illnesses and using a pharmacy as the first point of call for advice helps to free up GP time for urgent appointments and reduces non-emergency A&E visits.”


The NHS England ‘Stay Well Pharmacy’ campaign is highlighting the benefits of seeing a local pharmacy early for concerns such as sore throats, coughs, colds, tummy troubles, teething, and aches and pains.


Parents and carers of children are particularly encouraged to use their local pharmacy as it offers families a quick way of getting expert clinical help.


If you care for children, the child health app is free to download and offers a wealth of advice and support.


Search for more information and to help you find your nearest NHS pharmacy and opening hours.


South Tees Asthma Patients Offered 12-Week Support Programme

Asthma patients across South Tees have been urged to sign up for a free 12-week programme which could dramatically increase their control of the condition.

The programme, set up by Asthma UK, gives personalised support and advice to help asthmatics understand their illness and how it affects them.

The three-month plan involves advice, activities and tips sent straight to your phone. The programme is designed for people who may find it hard keeping to a routine with their asthma medicines and begins in April 2018.

South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are encouraging any asthma patients in the area to find out if they are eligible for the free support.

Dr Ali Tahmassebi from South Tees CCG, said: “Many asthma patients find the condition takes over their life – this is the ideal opportunity to take back control.

“Asthma attacks can be a terrifying and traumatic experience. As well as hopefully reducing the number of attacks, this support will help reduce any fears that patients may have.

“Thank you to Asthma UK for providing this brilliant and free initiative. I would urge any non-severe asthma patient in South Tees to find out more about the scheme and see if they fit the criteria for the next programme starting in April.

“It could change your life!”

To take part, you will need access to a smart phone.

For more information, visit or email

An Open Letter From Your Body! How could reducing alcohol consumption help you?

Alcohol misuse is having a devastating impact on our region. We have the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions in England and half of all violent crime is linked to alcohol.

With Balance, we aim to raise awareness about drinking too much and how to reduce your alcohol intake. Imagine what your body would say to you after cutting down your drinking habits. They’ve penned an open letter for you to read…

Hi there,

New Year, new you? Over a month of 2018 is behind you already and Dry January was a resounding success. Keep it up!

You’ve already made a start reducing the risk of me developing seven forms of cancer later in life – well played.

Having a beverage in front of the TV in your pyjamas is nice, but taking up that gym class was an even better idea. My fitness levels will carry on getting better with the tough spinning sessions after work. My legs are already stronger than ever!

If you keep up your days off alcohol I’ll look after improving your sleeping pattern in the long run. Without the fear of a hangover, I can’t wait to wake up with much more energy on a morning and be ready to take on the day!

You know that two for one gym voucher you got for Christmas? Keep treating me with that rather than the special deal on booze I saw you eyeing up the other day. Think of all those warm weather holidays you could treat me with using the money you’ve saved! Don’t let it slip now.

I can’t wait to show off my new appearance as the days go by in 2018. My skin will be radiant, my eyes will look brighter and we will both be feeling healthier and happier.

We can work together to carry on reaping the rewards if you keep up the good work.

Thanks in advance, your body…

Reducing prescribing of over the counter medicines – have your say!

NHS England is undertaking a public consultation on reducing prescribing of over-the-counter medicines for 33 minor, short-term health concerns. The aim of this online consultation meeting is to provide you with information about the proposed national guidance and to seek your views about the proposals.

Patients, members of the public, and NHS staff are encouraged to feed into the consultation as the resulting guidance will be used to inform what is available on prescription from your GP in your local area.

The online consultation can be accessed here

In the year prior to June 2017, the NHS spent approximately £569 million on prescriptions for medicines which can be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy and other outlets such as supermarkets.

These prescriptions include items for a condition:

  • That is considered to be self-limiting and so does not need treatment as it will heal of its own accord;
  • Which lends itself to self-care, i.e. that the person suffering does not normally need to seek medical care but may decide to seek help with symptom relief from a local pharmacy and use an over the counter medicine.

Vitamins/minerals and probiotics have also been included in the consultation proposals as items of low clinical effectiveness which are of high cost to the NHS.The intention is to produce a consistent, national framework for CCGs to use.For more information please visit the NHS England website at:

Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the commissioning guidance will need to be taken into account by CCGs in adopting or amending their own local guidance to GPs in primary care.

NHS England has partnered with NHS Clinical Commissioners to carry out the consultation after CCGs asked for a nationally co-ordinated approach to the development of commissioning guidance in this area to ensure consistency and address unwarranted variation.

NHS agrees changes to learning disability services on Tees following public consultation

Following a public consultation, the NHS on Teesside agreed to introduce changes to respite services for adults (18+) with a learning disability, complex needs and/or autism. The decision taken by both NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-On-Tees (HAST) Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS South Tees CCG at the Governing Body In-Common on 1st February 2018 agreed to commission a range of services to improve choice whilst recognising the importance of retaining the current facilities available.

This means that bed based services will continue to be delivered from 2 Bankfields Court in Middlesbrough and Aysgarth in Stockton-on-Tees. Other changes to be implemented to make the service more equitable for people with a learning disability include:

  • Changing the assessment and allocations process, making it more needs led;
  • Offering more choice and improved focus on the needs of people with a learning disability and their carers and families;
  • Buying flexible community-based respite services and clinically-led outreach support services so that people with a learning disability can choose from a range of respite activities with the appropriate support they need.

The decision follows extensive feedback from people who currently access services, their families and carers, and other key stakeholders as part of the 10-week formal public consultation process, which ran from September to November 2017.

Ali Wilson, Chief Officer of NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, and Amanda Hume, Chief Officer of NHS South Tees CCG said in a joint statement: “The CCGs are pleased to support the recommended changes and would like to thank all those who contributed to the consultation; from people who access current services and their families and carers to key stakeholders such as our local authorities for their participation and feedback which has made this a truly participative process.

“We know how much the existing services and staff mean to people. We heard first-hand at our public consultation events the impact the services have on families across South Tees and the Hartlepool and Stockton areas.

“All the feedback received from the consultation; including both verbal and completed questionnaires; was vitally important in helping the CCGs make an informed decision on the future of learning disability services, and a decision that we believe reflects the majority view of people who took part in the consultation process.”

Further information and background about the consultation is available on the CCG websites: and


For further information, please contact the North of England Commissioning Support communications and engagement team on 01642 745401 or 07826 531333.

Growing our own

At  a time when the media is full of headlines about how tough things are in the NHS, I was heartened to hear on Radio Tees of local talent still wanting to plan a  profession in the health service.

It was great to hear that parents of a Grangetown girl were wishing her well with her A level studies and were really proud of her working so hard to get into Medical School in London where she would hopefully start her training to become a  doctor.

Nationally, we struggle to get junior doctors to train to become General Practitioners, and it has been especially hard to attract them to Teesside to train or take up careers as GPs.  We should be proud of any local grown students wanting to consider careers in the medical, nursing or allied health professional fields. I wish them all well, but of course would also hope that some of them may return to Teesside when they are trained to join the Tees health community.