Monthly Archives: May 2018

Health Services This Bank Holiday Weekend

Need to access urgent health care services this Bank Holiday weekend?

Your GP practice will be closed this Bank Holiday weekend.  If you need to access urgent health care services, call 111 which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

For immediate, life-threatening emergencies, continue to call 999.

For more information, visit



STOMP Poster Competition: Could You Be The Winner?

Children and young people across North East and Cumbria have been invited to enter a poster competition to win vouchers worth £200.

Anyone aged 25 and under can enter the competition, which asks participants to design a poster on the STOMP initiative, which stands for ‘stopping over medication of people with a learning disability, autism or both.’

The overall winner and two runners-up will have their posters used to promote the STOMP initiative, as well as winning vouchers.

The competition is running until Friday June 22 and entries can be sent by emailing or posting to NHS England, Transforming Care, Waterfront 4, Goldcrest Way, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE15 8NY.

STOMP campaigns to stop the over-use of psychotropic medication to manage people’s behaviour after the issue came to light following research by Public Health England. This found that up to 35,000 adults with a learning disability are being prescribed an antipsychotic, an antidepressant or both without appropriate clinical justification.

This is medication which results in alterations to perception, mood or consciousness. Long-term use of these medicines puts people at unnecessary risk of a wide range of side effects including weight gain, organ failure and even premature death.

For more information on STOMP, visit

Mental Health Awareness Week – it’s good to talk

Staff at the CCG are promoting mental health awareness week 14-20th May this week and I’d like to encourage all of us to consider doing the same. Traditionally we are just not that great at talking about how we are feeling. The mental health foundation have lots of interesting information on their website about how we can all be better listeners. They quote recent research that shows two thirds of us will have a mental health problem in our lifetimes and that stress can be a key factor. Check out the website for a link to a  self-assessment ‘stress test’ as well as 6 top tips to become a better listener.  Maybe you can help yourself or someone you care about.

If you feel you can’t cope and need to speak to somebody right now, or need advice on how you can deal with someone else’s behaviour, no matter what time of day, you could contact NHS 111 or the Samaritans. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones Telephone: 111.The Samaritans offer a 24-hour confidential telephone helpline. Telephone: 08457 90 90 90. Across Teesside people can also access Talking Therapies (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) and the useful website We Can Talk gives more details about self-referral to local organisations who can help.

An Alternative Way To Get a Consultation With Your GP

NHS England is using technology to empower patients and make it easier for clinicians to deliver high quality care and enabling patients to seamlessly navigate the service as part of its digital transformation strategy. The Online Consultations programme is a contribution towards this ambition.

Online Consultations are a way for patients to contact their GP practice without having to wait on the phone or take time out to come into the practice. Using a smartphone, tablet or computer, you can contact your practice about a new problem or an ongoing issue. You can ask questions or tell your GP about your symptoms. The practice will ensure your contact is dealt with by the right person in the team, helping ensure you are served as quickly and appropriately as possible. Sometimes this will mean you will need a phone call with the GP or nurse, or an appointment at the practice, and this will be arranged as usual.

Lots of people are already using their practice websites to make an appointment, get test results, order a repeat prescription or to view their summary records, so this is a simply a further service being made available to current systems.

We want to find out what you think about using online consultation with your GP practice (not about hospital appointments).

This short survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete and we would really like to hear what you think. The survey is open from Tuesday 8 May and closes on Friday 15 June 2018.

You can find out much more about the programme on the NHS England website – including a link to an online survey to give us your views

For more details about this research project, email

We want your views about Direct Access to Adult Hearing Services

Five health commissioners across Durham and Teesside are working together to re- procure the Direct Access to Adult Hearing Services for Age Related Hearing Loss – Audiology Services and we would like your views to help us do that.

The impact of hearing loss in adults can be immense both at a personal and a societal level leading to social isolation, depression, loss of independence and employment challenges.

One in six people in the UK has some form of hearing loss. Most are elderly people who are gradually losing their hearing as part of the ageing process, with more than 70% of over 70 year-olds and 40% of over 50 year-olds having some form of hearing loss.

The aim of the service is to provide a comprehensive, patient-centred, direct access adult hearing service for age-related hearing loss in line with national guidance and local requirements.


A period of 8 weeks public engagement will begin on Monday 14th May 2018 until Friday 6th July 2018. We will be gathering the views of service users and local stakeholders about their experience of the current service and seeking suggestions on how to improve a future service.

You can get involved by completing an online questionnaire, using the following web link

Information for women aged 70-79

You may not have received a screening invitation

Some women aged between 70 and 79 are being offered the opportunity for a breast screen. This is because some women did not receive an invitation for a final screen, as part of the routine NHS Breast Screening Programme.

The Breast Screening Programme usually invites women to have a screen once every 3 years when aged between 50 and 70 (up to their 71st birthday). This means women will usually receive their final screen sometime between their 68th and 71st birthdays.

Most women can be reassured that they will have received their final invitation but there are some women, now aged 70 to 79, who have missed an invitation due to a problem that dates back to 2009.

All affected women registered with a GP will receive a letter by the end of May with further information.

A helpline is also available: 0800 169 2692.

How do I know if I did not receive my final screening invitation?

All women affected who are registered with a GP will be informed by letter from Public Health England (PHE) by the end of May 2018.

Women affected aged up to their 72nd birthday will receive a letter inviting them for a catch-up screen.

Women aged 72 to 79 will receive a letter providing clear information on what to do next if they want to have a screen.

These women, aged 72 to 79, will be asked to contact the helpline on 0800 169 2692 (set up to support women about this issue) who will liaise with the local Breast Screening Service to arrange an appointment and invitation letter on their behalf.

Women, aged 70 to 79, currently registered with a GP, who do not receive a letter from PHE can be assured they are not affected and do not need a catch-up screen.

However, if you are not currently registered with a GP and believe you did not receive an invitation for a screen sometime between your 68th and 71st birthday, then we advise that you contact the helpline on 0800 169 2692.

Deciding whether or not to have a screen

Women aged 71 or over are not routinely invited for breast screening because the benefits of screening for this age group are unclear. Women over 71 can, however, make their own appointments for breast screening every 3 years if they wish.

PHE experts say the research evidence is uncertain about the benefits and harms of breast screening for women over 71. For some older women, screening may diagnose and treat a breast problem that would never go on to cause harm if left alone.

This is called “over diagnosis”. As women get older, there is a higher chance of “over diagnosis” than there is of having their life saved by screening.

To help with your decision you may find it helpful to read the following leaflet: Breast Screening For Women Over 70.

If you have noticed any changes to your breasts

If you have noticed any changes to your breasts or had any breast symptoms, see your GP.

Women who have developed breast cancer

If you are over 70 and have developed breast cancer, finding out you did not receive an invitation for a screen at the right time may be upsetting.

PHE experts say that in many cases missing a single breast screen at around 70 years of age is unlikely to make a significant difference to the course of a woman’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, it’s important to look at your individual case to see how you have been affected.

If you would like to discuss this with a nurse, ring the free helpline on 0800 169 2692. Please tell the helpline operator you have breast cancer and they will be able to support you.

Getting support and advice

A dedicated advice line has been set up. Call 0800 169 2692 if you need further support and advice.


How will I know if I missed a screen?

The women who have missed a screening invitation will now be aged 70 to 79.

Women being offered the opportunity for a screen will be informed by letter from PHE by the end of May 2018. If you choose to take up the offer of a screen, information on what you need to do will be provided in your letter.

What should I do now?

As usual, you should continue to be aware of any changes to your breasts and if you have any concerns you should see your GP.

If you do not receive a letter from PHE by the end of May 2018, and are registered with a GP in England, you can be reassured that you did not miss a screen.

If you do receive a letter from PHE informing you that you are affected, you will be offered the opportunity for a screen. To help you choose you may find it helpful to read the leaflet: Breast Screening For Women Over 70.

If you do choose to have a screen, information on what you need to do will be provided in your letter.

Should I contact my GP?

You do not need to contact your GP as all women affected will receive a letter from PHE by the end of May, which will provide information about what you need to do if you choose to have a screen.

At all times women should continue to be aware of any changes to their breasts and if changes occur, then they should see their GP.

Why wasn’t I sent my screening appointment at the right time?

During work to upgrade the NHS Breast Screening computerised invitation system, PHE identified a number of complex issues, which over time have contributed to variations in how local breast screening services send out their invitations.

The issues identified have only impacted on invitations to women when they were at the upper age limit of the programme, aged 68 to

Changes to prescribing for items available ‘over the counter’ will save NHS funds

NHS England has recently published guidance to free up to almost £100 million for frontline care each year by curbing prescriptions for ‘over the counter’ medicines for minor ailments such as those for hay fever and constipation.

Curbing routine prescribing for minor, short-term conditions, many of which will cure themselves or cause no long term effect on health, will free up NHS funds for frontline care.

The guidance will not affect prescribing of over the counter items for longer term or more complex conditions or where minor illnesses are symptomatic or a side effect of something more serious.

The NHS each year spends:

  • £22.8 million on constipation – enough to fund around 900 community nurses
  • £3 million on athlete’s foot and other fungal infections – enough to fund 810 hip ops
  • £2.8 million on diarrhoea – enough to fund 2912 cataract operations

The new over the counter medicines guidance will curb the routine prescribing of products that are for:

  • A self-limiting condition, which does not require any medical advice or treatment as it will clear up on its own, such as sore throats, coughs and colds
  • A condition that is suitable for self-care, which can be treated with items that can easily be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy, such as indigestion, mouth ulcers and warts and verrucae.

Some of the products currently can be purchased over the counter at a lower cost than that which would be incurred by the NHS – for example, a pack of 12 anti-sickness tablets can be purchased for £2.18 from a pharmacy whereas the cost to the NHS is over £3 after including dispensing fees, and over £35 when you include GP consultation and other administration costs. Similarly some common tablets are on average four times more expensive when provided on prescription by the NHS.

For Clinical Commissioning Groups across the North East and North Cumbria, a similar campaign has been running since mid-2017 and has shown some impressive savings.  Over £850k has been saved on the prescribing of products for hay fever and simple pain relief in the region.

Dr Graham Syers, chair of the Regional Prescribing Forum said, “The scheme running across the North East and North Cumbria has already shown that savings can be made by not routinely prescribing for minor ailments that can be self-managed.  When these kinds of savings are made across the whole country, the NHS will be able to invest more in those services that are most needed such as new cancer treatments and improvements to mental health services.”

Once CCGs have adopted the new guidance locally, it will apply to everyone who is not covered by the general or condition-specific exceptions listed in the guidance document. In relation to the exceptions, it is important to note:

  • The guidance does not apply to people with long-term or more complex conditions who will continue to get their usual prescriptions.
  • People who receive free prescriptions will not automatically be exempt from the guidance.
  • For patients where the clinician considers that their ability to self-manage is compromised as a consequence of medical, mental health or significant social vulnerability; these patients will continue to receive prescriptions for over the counter items subject to the item being clinically effective.

More information, including a list of conditions that will no longer have treatment prescribed is available at the links below:

OTC Frequently Asked Questions

OTC Report of Consultation Findings