With winter weather rapidly descending on us, Professor Jim McManus, a public health specialist, gives a Christian take on surviving winter and helping an NHS already under considerable strain.
There is every sign this winter is going to be much, much tougher for the NHS for many reasons.
First, the seasonal ‘flu virus may well be much worse in the strain it places on health services this year, if the Australian winter is anything to go by, and it usually is. Many more people may be ill. This can be largely prevented if people get their ‘flu jab.
Second the financial pressure and third the existing backlogs mean the NHS is already under severe strain. Fourth, social care funding is at breaking point.
As Catholics we need to be urging government to find a long term sustainable future for the NHS and social care as a fundamental commitment to the Common Good, and it isn’t just about more money.
Caring for ourselves and caring for staff are just as important, and long term solutions are needed.
As Catholics we also recognise we have an obligation to care for ourselves, too. It’s part of our responsibility of good citizenship.
But while this debate is going on, there are seven practical things we can do to help now.
1. Everyone eligible really needs to get their ‘flu jab.
It will save lives and beds. If it’s free it’s because you need it! And NO, it DOESN’T give you ‘flu. Check here
2. Rally round people we know who work in health and social care to support them and care for them.
3. Volunteer to help out with patient transport or your local hospital, or helping out with social activities in care facilities. Contact your hospital reception desk or chaplaincy team for details
4. Checking on vulnerable parishioners and neighbours to see they’re ok especially in bad weather.
5. Looking after our own health. Check out nhs.uk/winterhealth for more
6. Don’t go to your GP or hospital unless you really need to.
Your first stop if something isn’t serious is your pharmacist not your GP. If in doubt ring 111 – they’ve never let me down even when I had a serious post-cancer infection
7. Don’t ask for antibiotics unless you really need them – they won’t work for colds and ‘flu viruses.
Professor Jim McManus
Director of Public Health
Hertfordshire County Council