East Staffordshire patients told health advice and help are closer than you think

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Patients seeking health advice across East Staffordshire are being advised that getting medical help could be closer and faster than they think.

East Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is reminding members of the public that pharmacists can offer expert advice and medicines for common illnesses and health problems. Minor injuries units can also offer treatment for a wide range of conditions.

Pharmacies can offer advice if patients are worried about their symptoms and can let them know if they need to see their GP or get further medical advice – and they don’t need to travel miles or wait for an appointment, just drop in at the pharmacy.

Do you have kidney disease? Get your flu jab!

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Health leaders are reminding people with kidney disease in East Staffordshire to have their free flu jab if they haven’t already as winter begins to grip.

As Christmas creeps closer the flu season begins to take hold - particularly when the temperature drops and winter illnesses start to circulate. This is why East Staffordshire CCG is calling on patients to take precautions.

Kidney disease covers a range of conditions and those with more severe stages, such as nephrotic syndrome or a kidney transplant are eligible for a flu vaccination. If you think you have an undiagnosed medical condition affecting your kidneys, you should talk to your GP or practice nurse to find out if you need a flu vaccination.

If you suffer from an underlying health condition, you are more susceptible to flu, and if you catch it you are more likely to die, according to the World health organisation 1. Therefore it is important to have the flu jab as soon as you can.

The flu jab is available from your GP and your local pharmacy. You will need to make an appointment, so be sure to call ahead.

Dr Charles Pidsley, local GP and Chair of the CCG, explains: “If you suffer from kidney disease, you are more susceptible to flu and infections such as pneumonia. This is because your immune system is less effective. The best protection we have against the flu is the vaccination.

“Many people think that the flu is like a bad cold. However, it is a respiratory virus which can make you very unwell. Having kidney disease puts you at high risk of infection, which is the second most common cause of death in kidney disease patients. You can dramatically reduce this risk by having the flu jab, and this will also reduce the likelihood of needing to go to hospital.

“My advice for anyone who has kidney disease, or any underlying health condition, is to get your flu jab now as it takes up to two weeks to take effect.”

The flu vaccination is most effective when administered every year. Flu strains can change and the jab is adjusted accordingly, meaning that last year’s jab may not be effective with this year’s flu. You will not catch flu from having the jab, as the vaccination does not contain a live virus.

For more information visit www.nhs.uk/staywell

National Fraud Initiative

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This CCG is required to protect the public funds it administers. It may share information provided to it with other bodies responsible for; auditing, or administering public funds, or where undertaking a public function, in order to prevent and detect fraud.

The Cabinet Office is responsible for carrying out data matching exercises.

Data matching involves comparing computer records held by one body against other computer records held by the same or another body to see how far they match. This is usually personal information. Computerised data matching allows potentially fraudulent claims and payments to be identified. Where a match is found it may indicate that there is an inconsistency which requires further investigation. No assumption can be made as to whether there is fraud, error or other explanation until an investigation is carried out.

We participate in the Cabinet Office’s National Fraud Initiative: a data matching exercise to assist in the prevention and detection of fraud. We are required to provide particular sets of data to the Minister for the Cabinet Office for matching for each exercise, as detailed here.

The use of data by the Cabinet Office in a data matching exercise is carried out with statutory authority under Part 6 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. It does not require the consent of the individuals concerned under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Data matching by the Cabinet Office is subject to a Code of Practice.

View further information on the Cabinet Office's legal powers and the reasons why it matches particular information. For further information on data matching at this CCG, please contact Neil Mohan on 01509 604029.

Antibiotics are not always the answer to your illness

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Dr Judith Crosse, a local GP and lead for East Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group on antibiotic prescribing, urged people to take extra care of themselves as the nights draw in and more fall victim to seasonal colds, coughs and flus, but not to assume a course of antibiotics was the cure they required.

"Some people still believe antibiotics are the cure for winter colds and even flu," said Dr Crosse. "When people are struck down by a runny nose, headache, sore throat or sneezing, they often head straight to their doctor to ask for antibiotics, not realising antibiotics are only effective against bacteria and will not work on colds of flu, which are caused by viruses.

Dr Crosse said over and above the fact antibiotics are simply not effective against colds and flu, there were now a number of very good reasons GPs were trying to limit the prescription of antibiotics.

These include:

• Resistance – different bacteria adapt to find ways to fight antibiotics – the more antibiotics are used the greater the opportunity for bacteria to adapt. This may eventually mean the antibiotic becomes ineffective against certain bacteria
• Side effects – the side effects of antibiotics can include sickness, diarrhoea, stomach pains, headaches and even thrush.

“Doctors are growing increasingly aware that care must be taken by patients using antibiotics," said Dr Crosse. "Unfortunately very few new antibiotics are being developed, so we have to make sure that the ones we have continue to work.”

Dr Crosse said there were a number of ways patients could tackle seasonal conditions like colds and flu themselves. “Winter colds will get better by themselves," she said. “Often the best thing is to take medicines like paracetamol to control your symptoms and keep well hydrated. "Or visit a pharmacist, who will be able to advise on common illnesses like the cold and how best to manage them.”

Here are some useful hints & tips:-

How should I treat my cold?
The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is to drink plenty of fluids and to rest. Colds can last about two weeks and may end with a cough and bringing up phlegm. There are many over-the-counter remedies to ease the symptoms – paracetamol, for example. Ask your pharmacist for advice. If the cold lasts for more than three weeks, or you become breathless or have chest pains, or already have a chest complaint, see your doctor.

What about my children, they’re always getting coughs and colds?
It’s very common for children to get coughs and colds, especially when they go to school and mix with other children. Ask your pharmacist for advice. If the symptoms persist and you are concerned, see your doctor but you shouldn’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics.

Why should antibiotics not be used to treat coughs and colds?
All colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not work against infections, such as colds, caused by viruses. Viral infections are much more common than bacterial infections.

What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. They become ‘antibiotic resistant’ so that the antibiotic no longer works. The more often we use an antibiotic, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to it. Some bacteria that cause infections in hospitals, such as MRSA, are resistant to several antibiotics.

Why can’t different antibiotics be used instead?
They can, but they may not be as effective, and they may have more side effects. And eventually the bacteria will become resistant to them too. We cannot be sure we will always be able to find new antibiotics to replace the old ones. In recent years fewer new antibiotics have been discovered.

How can antibiotic resistance be avoided?
By using antibiotics less often we can slow down the development of resistance. It’s not possible to stop it completely, but slowing it down stops resistance spreading and buys some time to develop new types of antibiotics.

What can I do about antibiotic resistance?
By only using antibiotics when it’s appropriate to do so. We now know that most coughs and colds get better just as quickly without antibiotics. When they are prescribed, the complete course should be taken in order to get rid of the bacteria completely. If the course isn’t completed, some bacteria may be left to develop resistance.

So when will I be prescribed antibiotics?
Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when you need them, for example for a kidney infection or pneumonia. Antibiotics may be life-saving for infections such as meningitis. By not using them unnecessarily, they are more likely to work when we need them.
Further information can be found on the following website – www.nhs.uk/antibiotics

To see a video of Dr Crosse offering further advice visit here.