​Chat from the Chair

Could Christmas show us how to be better together?

The meaning and experience of Christmas is increasingly broad to those in our ever more diverse borough but this is a time when in the health and care services we are particularly aware of those in need such as older and more vulnerable people in our community.

Avoiding a hospital stay

There are about 78,000 people in Wandsworth living with more than one long term health condition. These patients account for about half of all GP appointments, 64 per cent of all outpatient appointments and over 70 per cent of all hospital bed occupancy.

Our aim at NHS Wandsworth CCG is to improve care for this group of people so that they don't have to go to hospital unless absolutely necessary. We want to reduce the risk of accidents such as falls and illnesses and so make it less likely that frail older people will have to go to hospital in an emergency.

Our solution is what we call "Planning All Care Together" or PACT. You could say it really is a pact, between GPs, the patient and a wider team of health and social care professionals who provide this service for vulnerable patients with long term conditions. PACT allows GPs to spend extra time with patients, working with them to understand what will help them to stay as well as they can and avoid unplanned stays in hospital. Last year we provided about 16,744 extra appointments, extra time with over 9,731 vulnerable people, 1,039 carers' consultations and 2,618 assessments for risk of falls.

We all have a role to play

Family, friends and neighbours also have a huge role to play in helping more vulnerable people to stay well. Cold weather can be harmful, especially for people age 65 or older: it weakens the immune system, increases blood pressure, thickens the blood and lowers body temperature, increasing risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and chest infections. For those with long term conditions, cold weather and winter illnesses such as flu, can make health problems like these far worse.

There are a number of things which can help people prepare against the cold weather.

It is important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors. Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F), and if you can, you might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer.

For coughs and colds get help from your pharmacist and make sure you know about medicines you should have in stock to help get you and your family through the winter season. Make sure you pick up your regular prescription medications before the Christmas holidays start, as many GPs and pharmacies will close over the holidays (insert link to pharmacy opening times).

Many NHS staff will be working over the festive season and this can be a time of great strain on services. We all have a role to play in keeping ourselves, our family, and neighbours and friends healthy so that the NHS can care for those who need it the most.