February 2015

From saving lives in Afghanistan to transforming healthcare in Devon

25 February 2015

She’s treated soldiers on the front line for 21 years as an army nurse. Now Vanessa Crossey is putting Devon service personnel in the frontline of NHS thinking.
 
Vanessa has joined Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group as Lead Practice Nurse, a new role which focuses on providing support and advice to commissioners on nursing issues.
 
Since joining the army in 1993, Vanessa has been posted all over Europe. This has included lived on board a ship for six months on a tour of Bosnia and delivering babies in an ambulance at the side of the road, as a midwife at a remote base in Cyprus.
 
Vanessa has also been posted to Afghanistan, where she oversaw the running of a GP practice in Camp Bastion, which was responsible for 27000 people.
 
“What people don’t realise is that soldiers have the same health needs as the rest of us and most of the people we saw at the practice had colds or minor conditions,” Vanessa says. “But when people did have serious injuries, we’d have to think carefully about how that would affect them in the future, and what care they might need in the long-term.”
 
Vanessa hopes her experience in Afghanistan will help her in her new role.
 
“As the Health Care Governance Officer at a huge military base, I had to deal with difficult situations and negotiate with senior commanders to come up with healthcare strategies.
 
“I’m hoping to bring all the skills I learnt in the army to my role at the CCG. I want to bring the needs of nurses and service personnel to the forefront. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
 
As well as being excited about her new role, Vanessa is looking forward to settling down with her family in the West Country and says her two children are excited that they won’t have to change schools any time soon.
 
“As well as me being in the army, my husband has been in the Royal Navy for the past ten years, so my children have never really had a “normal” family life. My husband will still have to spend time away from home, but it will be nice for my kids to stay in one place.”
 
However, she’s not ready to leave army life behind completely just yet.

“Of course I’ve joined the army reserves,” she says. “I learnt most of what I know about nursing in the army, so I’d like really like to maintain that connection. It’s something I can apply to my role here too, because our service personnel are so important to us as a country and the NHS has a role to play in making sure we look after them properly now and in the future.”

Join Dementia Research launch

24 February 2015

A new nationwide online and telephone service that helps people in the South West of England to take part in dementia research studies launches today.

 
Join Dementia Research promises to accelerate the pace of dementia research by allowing people with and without dementia to register their interest in studies, helping researchers find the right participants at the right time.
 
This new Department of Health funded service is a collaboration between the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland.
 
Dementia affects over 850,000 people in the UK, with 25 million of the UK population having a close friend or family member affected.  In England there were 316,864 patients on GP dementia registers in 2013 and 16,786 of these patients were in the South West Peninsula. The prevalence of dementia in the South West Peninsula (Devon, Cornwall & Somerset) is 0.74% of the population compared with 0.57% nationally.
 
A new national poll* has shown that almost two thirds of the general public (62%) would be willing to take part in dementia research, but more than four out of five people (81%) wouldn’t know how to volunteer.  Join Dementia Research is designed to overcome these barriers and give everyone the opportunity to play a role in changing the outlook for people with dementia now and in the future.
 
The lack of access to willing volunteers is holding back critical research into the condition with government figures showing that less than 5% of people with dementia take part in research studies. 
 
The joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk website offers a secure and easy way for someone to register their interest, discover studies that interest them, and ultimately connect with researchers to take part in their studies.
 
Anyone aged 18 years or over can sign up themselves, or on behalf of someone else, either by registering online or by contacting the helplines of Alzheimer’s Research UK (0300 111 5 111) and Alzheimer’s Society (0300 222 1122). 
 
By signing up to the service, people give permission for researchers to contact them with details of studies in their area that match their profile. People can then decide if they would like to participate in those studies on a case-by-case basis. By registering, people do not have to take part in any studies and can opt-out at any time.

Current research studies range from clinical trials of new treatments to surveys identifying what works in improving the quality of life of people with dementia.
 
Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital Elderly Care consultant Dr Ray Sheridan welcomed the Join Dementia Research initiative as a central point where people who want to volunteer to participate in dementia research studies can register their interest and where researchers can identify potential study participants quicker.
 
Dr Sheridan added: “The South West prevalence of dementia is high which presents challenges for our communities but potentially also presents real opportunities to make a difference with active participation in research studies. People can register with Join Dementia Research without being obliged to take part in a particular study, but we hope that the service will expand the pool of willing participants. Growing the number of willing research volunteers will help push forward research to make advances in treatment, prevention and care.”
 
Annette Ward, who works as a sonographer at the Royal Devon & Exeter Wonford hospital volunteered to Join Dementia Research because she wants to ‘do her bit’ to support research because her own mother Joyce had the condition.
 
Annette explained: “Mum was such a loving, lively, cheery person, always smiling always laughing. Over a decade, my mum gradually lost her memories, her independence, and her laughter. In the end, mum couldn’t walk, talk or feed herself – and it could happen to any of us. No one should have to do that. No one should have to see it happen to someone they love. We need to know what factors contribute to the disease. We need to know how to treat dementia and eventually how to prevent it. Research gives us hope for that. Join Dementia Research will help us to get answers sooner, rather than later.”
 
Prof Martin Rossor, the NIHR National Director for Dementia Research, said: “The government and charities have increased funding for dementia research over the last few years, meaning more studies are being done than ever before, but it’s often difficult to find willing volunteers at the right time.  Join Dementia Research offers a way of ‘match-making’ – linking volunteers to researchers. The system also helps us plan future studies. It’s important that everyone should be able to find out about research that is happening near to where they live and get the opportunity to be part of that research.” 

“Help your local NHS by choosing the right service,” say local doctors

20 February 2015

Doctors in Devon are urging people to call their GP or see a pharmacist first if they have a health need that’s not an emergency.
 
Derriford Hospital in Plymouth has been really busy over the winter period, with more people attending the emergency department and more beds in use than usual.
 
Dr Steve Harris, a GP from Ivybridge and Vice Chair of the Western locality of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) said people can help ease pressure on the local NHS by choosing the right healthcare service for their needs.
 
“We’re asking people to think before attending the emergency department and consider whether another service might be more suitable.
 
“For example, in Western Devon we are encouraging people to consider using the minor injuries unit at the Cumberland Centre if they have an illness or injury that’s not an emergency, instead of heading straight to the emergency department at Derriford hospital.”
 
Minor injuries units are an alternative to attending emergency departments when an injury is not considered life threatening, but still requires urgent treatment. Problems which can be treated at MIUs include cuts, small burns and scalds, bites and stings, certain sprains and fractures, and in some cases, minor head injuries. The minor injuries unit at the Cumberland Centre is open from 8:30am until 21:00pm every day of the year. More information can be found on their website, http://www.plymouthcommunityhealthcare.co.uk/services/miu
 
Other options include calling or visiting your GP, calling NHS 111, or calling or visiting a pharmacy.

Dr Harris added: “Pharmacists are highly trained professionals who are able and willing to help if you have a minor illness. You don’t need to have an appointment- you can just drop in and you can be out again in a few minutes with the medication and advice you need.”
 
NEW Devon CCG has issued some tips to help people choose the right NHS service:

  • Try your family or self-care - for minor illnesses, combine medicines for coughs, colds or flu with plenty of rest.
  • Pharmacies - pharmacists are trained to help people with minor illnesses and can advise on medicine that can be bought over the counter. Your nearest pharmacy can be found here: www.nhs.uk.
  • NHS 111 – for non-emergency health needs, 24 hours a day, as well as help to find services. Go to www.nhs.uk or call 111.
  • NHS minor injuries unit (MIU) - for treatment of minor illnesses or injuries, without an appointment. For details of your nearest MIU, go to www.nhs.uk.
  • Your GP surgery provides a wide range of health services, including: advice on health problems, vaccinations, examinations and treatment, prescriptions for medicines, referrals to other health services and social services. Your surgery will make sure you get to speak to a healthcare professional on the same day if you have an urgent condition.
  • Hospital emergency departments or 999 – please only attend hospital emergency departments if you have an immediate and serious problem that cannot be dealt with by the other services. 999 is only for critical or life-threatening situations.

Local commissioners want patients’ views on the future of orthopaedics

20 February 2015
 
Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) want to hear your views on orthopaedic services.
 
In April 2013, healthcare commissioners, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and patients all came together to discuss how services for people with joint pain could be improved and set out a range of proposals.
 
NEW Devon CCG wants to provide people with more options to prevent and manage muscular and joint conditions as alternatives to surgery.
 
This may help some people postpone surgery until later life and in some cases, remove the need for surgery altogether. If surgery is the most appropriate treatment, this will still be an option.
 
The proposals include services such as pain management, physiotherapy and support to lose weight. We also want to make sure GPs are better informed, so they can help people to make well-informed decisions about surgery.
 
Dr Gary Lenden, a GP from Plymouth and Clinical Lead for the Western Locality of NEW Devon CCG said: “Finding out what patients think of the proposals is vital.
 
“We want our services to be better for our patients, so asking them how they think services can be improved is really important.
 
“We may have the clinical expertise, but they have first-hand experience of what it’s like to use orthopaedic services.”
 
If you’d like to share your views on the future of orthopaedic services, come along to our event, which is being held from 2-4pm on 24th February, at Windsor House in Plymouth.
 
More information about the event can be found here. If you can’t make it on the day email your thoughts to westernlocality@nhs.net, or call us on 01752 398731.

Flu warning from local GPs

20 February 2015   
 
Doctors in Devon are urging people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms not to visit the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E).
 
The RD&E is currently seeing a higher number of people coming to the emergency department than usual, and has seen a particular rise in the number of people attending with the flu.
 
People are advised not to visit the hospital and to call their relatives instead if they are experiencing flu symptoms, to prevent the virus from spreading.

Director of Public Health Dr Virginia Pearson said: "We would advise people not to visit friends or relatives in hospital if they are feeling unwell themselves - coughs, colds and flu can spread quickly to patients who are already very poorly. We also need to protect our hospital staff from getting ill, especially at this time of year when hospitals are so busy."

Influenza or 'flu' is a respiratory illness caused by a virus.  Influenza occurs most often in winter, and the local area is currently seeing an increased reporting of flu-like illness.   

For most people influenza infection is very unpleasant, but for some it can lead to more serious illnesses. It is very important to protect those who are vulnerable to infection. 

Therefore, to reduce the risk to people already in hospital, please do not visit the hospital if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Heavy cold
  • Fever (feeling hot and cold)
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Muscles aches and pains

If you have an appointment, and you have any of the above symptoms, please contact the department for further advice.

If you are worried about your symptoms and need advice you can telephone your GP or the NHS advice line on 111.

Dr Simon Kerr, a GP from Ottery St Mary and Vice Chair of the Eastern Locality of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG), said: “We are encouraging people with flu symptoms to visit their GP or pharmacy, or call NHS 111, rather than bringing the virus into the hospital. If you think you may be contagious, stay at home or ring your GP or pharmacy for advice.”
 
Everyone attending the Emergency Department can expect the same standard of treatment but the public can help us manage the pressures over winter by using the department only for medical emergencies and seeking treatment elsewhere for less urgent complaints and conditions, for example the 111 service, GP, pharmacist or walk-in centre.

NEW Devon CCG initiative makes national award finals

17 February 2015

Devon’s 111 Review Group has been shortlisted for the finals of the Patient Experience Network’s National Awards (2014).
 
The awards, which take place in Birmingham on Wednesday 11th March 2015, celebrate initiatives, projects or practices which make a real difference to the experiences of patients.
 
The 111 Review Group was set up in September 2013, when the NHS 111 non-emergency line was introduced nationally, as a way to ensure the service provided would always be of the best possible quality.
 
The group was launched as a collaboration between the commissioner of the service, Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG), and the service providers, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) and Devon Doctors on Call (DDOC).
 
Clinical leads, 111 service providers and members of the Patient Advice and Complaints Team were able to raise clinical issues experienced during call handling on a weekly basis as part of the group. This allowed NEW Devon CCG, SWASFT and DDOC to identify themes and trends and to agree swift resolutions.
 
Some examples of 111 Review Group work include identifying when extra staffing was required and putting this in place, introducing a process known as ‘Clinical Streaming’, which ensures patients get a swift response to their clinical needs, and a review process, where the group looked in detail at the patient experience from the first point of contact to the final outcome, to monitor how the whole urgent care system operates.
 
Dr Stephen Thake, a GP from Devon and one of the Clinical Governance Leads for NHS 111 for NEW Devon CCG, says it’s great to be recognised by the Patient Experience Network. “The 111 Review Group is a fantastic example of how we try to look at the services we commission from a patient’s perspective and of how we are constantly improving our services to fit their needs. The group allowed us to identify potential problems early and change them, to ensure NHS 111 was introduced as the best possible service it could be.”

The 111 Review Group has been shortlisted under the ‘Access to Information’ category, which means it is a good example of a programme aimed at proactive and reactive provision of information pertaining to patients’ treatments.
 
The other finalists in the category are Ipswich Hospitals NHS Trust for their bereavement follow-up sessions, Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust (CLCH) with ‘My Health My Say’ and Mental Health Concern’s ‘Promoting Shared Decision Making in Depression’.
 
The initiatives will be judged by healthcare and customer service professionals, as well as a peer judge, which could be a patient who has had direct experience of the healthcare area they’ve been chosen to judge.
 
Judges will look at five criteria before choosing a winner. These are how innovative the project is, the quality of leadership shown, the outcomes of the project, whether it will make a sustainable difference, and how easily it could be transferred to and replicated in other parts of the NHS, or other organisations.
 
Dr Mike Haugh works with Dr Stephen Thake as Clinical Governance Lead for NHS 111 for NEW Devon CCG. He says the PEN Awards are a great way for health professionals to learn from each other. “Working in partnership has been a great success for us and has made a positive contribution to the patient experience of NHS 111 in Devon. This in turn has had a beneficial effect in other parts of the urgent care system. We hope other people learn from our Review Group model and also hope to learn from the other great initiatives being celebrated at the awards.”

CCG joins local action to tackle smoking

16 February 2015
 
Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) has pledged to join action to tackle smoking in our local communities.
 
The CCG has signed the NHS Statement of Support for Tobacco Control, and has agreed to work in partnership with the local government to deliver tobacco control and address the causes and impacts of smoking.
 
Dr Tim Burke is Chair of NEW Devon CCG and has signed the statement on behalf of the organisation. He says reducing smoking is one of the most important ways we can improve our health. “We know smoking kills 80,000 people in England every year, making it the single greatest cause of premature death and disease in our communities. We need to make sure people are aware of the damage it can do.
 
“It also costs a lot of money and we know reducing smoking significantly increases household incomes and benefits the local economy. That’s why reducing smoking amongst the most disadvantaged in our communities is a priority if we want to reduce health inequality.”
 
Dr Tim Burke says educating young people about the dangers of smoking is just as important as encouraging smokers to give up. “Every child is a potential smoker of the future and we know smoking is largely taken up by young people. In fact, two thirds of smokers start before the age of 18. We need to make sure our young people are aware of the dangers of smoking long before it becomes a habit.”
 
By signing the NHS Statement of Support for Tobacco Control, NEW Devon CCG has committed to:
 
  • Continue to actively support work at a local level to reduce smoking prevalence and health inequalities and to raise the profile of the harm caused by smoking to our communities;
  • Publically declare our commitment to reducing smoking in our communities by joining the Smokefree Action Coalition, the alliance of organisations working to reducing the harm caused by tobacco;
  • Work with our partners and local communities to address the causes and impacts of tobacco use, according to NICE guidance on smoking and tobacco control;
  • Play our role in tackling smoking through appropriate interventions such as ‘Make Every Contact Count’;
  • Protect our work from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry by not accepting any partnerships, payments, gifts and services, monetary or in kind or research funding offered by the tobacco industry to officials or employees;
  • Support the Government in taking action at a national level to help local authorities reduce smoking prevalence and health inequalities in our communities; and
  • Participate in local and regional networks for support.

Update on Monitor Investigation

16 February 2015
 
In November last year the CCG identified Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust as preferred provider for its complex adult community services for patients in Exeter, East and Mid Devon (Eastern Locality). 
 
Dr David Jenner, a GP from Cullompton and chair of the Eastern Locality of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG), said joined up services in his area was the right decision and in the best interests of patients.
 
“The present arrangement is that Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust provides community services in the Eastern Locality on an interim basis. This agreement is due to end shortly.  So the CCG went through a procurement process to select the preferred provider that would best be able to deliver future services that are in the best interests of our patients.”
 
Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has since lodged a complaint against the CCGs process and decision with Monitor – the regulator - who have opened an investigation. 

The CCG has now prepared its initial response and submission of supporting evidence.  A redacted version of the response document is shared on the CCG’s website for public information.  Find this at the bottom of this page.
 
The CCG response demonstrates that it designed the vision for community services with patients, the public and other key stakeholders including current healthcare providers, and has acted fairly, proportionately, and transparently in deciding how to select the provider deemed most capable of providing these services.
 
It also explains how the CCG has worked to meet the requirements of the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No 2) 2013 Regulations (“the Regulations”) which are at the centre of this investigation. 

The CCG is confident it has been fair and the process it followed was overseen by procurement experts, taking views into account before deciding the procurement approach. 
 
Dr Jenner added, “We recognise this investigation will cause concern and we want to take this opportunity to thank individuals and organisations who have been supportive of the CCG process and the outcomes of this. We are naturally disappointed that Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust have challenged the process but we remain confident that all our process and decision making has been in the best interests of patients and the local health and care system.”
 
“Whilst the investigation is underway, following discussion with Monitor, we will be continuing to progress the transition process towards contract award with Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.  This will avoid any delays to this important programme.”

Be Clear on Cancer oesophago-gastric cancer roadshow to visit North Devon

16 February 2015 

Event aims to raise awareness that heartburn most days for three weeks or more could be a sign of oesophageal or stomach cancer.

A Be Clear on Cancer roadshow is set to visit North Devon to raise
awareness of the symptoms of oesophageal and stomach cancers.

In particular, the roadshow aims to increase understanding that heartburn most days for three weeks or more could be a sign of oesophageal or stomach cancer and anyone who notices the symptoms should see their doctor.

The most recent data reveals that in North Devon, 23 people are diagnosed with oesophageal or stomach cancer (also known as oesophago-gastric cancers) each year, and approximately 14 people die from these diseases annually.

A new survey commissioned by Public Health England has found that nationally only 1 in 2 people (55%) would visit their doctor if they had heartburn most days for three weeks or more.

According to the survey, 59% of respondents did not know that heartburn could be a sign of cancer with just 15% saying they were certain that it is a symptom.

Another symptom highlighted by the roadshow is that of difficulty swallowing food.

Here the survey found that 70% did not know food sticking in the throat could be a sign of cancer and just 13% of those surveyed said they were sure it is a symptom.

Early diagnosis is crucial: around 67% of people diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers at the earliest stage survive for at least five years. This figure drops to around 3% for those diagnosed at a late stage.

The Be Clear on Cancer roadshow has been visiting shopping centres across England since 28 January and will be in Bideford on Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 February at the Atlantic Village Shopping Centre.

At the event, leaflets will be distributed that provide information on oesophago-gastric cancers and a nurse will also be on hand to talk to anyone who has any questions.

Professor Debra Lapthorne, Centre Director for the Devon, Cornwall and Somerset Public Health England Centre said:

"People may be reluctant to visit their doctor about persistent heartburn, thinking that it’s something they just have to live with, but heartburn most days for three weeks or more could be a sign of cancer.

“The Be Clear on Cancer roadshow in Bideford is a great way for individuals from the local area to find out more about the signs and symptoms of oesophago-gastric cancers. The earlier these cancers are diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival.”

For further information about the signs and symptoms of oesophageal and stomach cancers, please visit nhs.uk/ogcancer.

Self-referral scheme puts physiotherapy patients in control

13 February 2015

A new scheme which allows patients to refer themselves for physiotherapy appointments is being rolled out across the Plymouth area.
 
Patients with conditions like neck and back pain, muscle strains, ligament strains and arthritis can self-refer to musculoskeletal physiotherapy services instead of asking their GP for a referral.
 
The scheme has been successfully piloted in three local GP practices and is supported by the clinical group for the musculoskeletal physiotherapy service at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.
 
Dr Gary Lenden, a GP from Plymouth and Clinical Lead for the Western locality of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Being able to self-refer makes patients feel empowered, because they have the chance to say exactly what symptoms they are experiencing and how it is affecting them.
 
“It also means people can be seen quicker, which is more convenient for them and prevents chronic issues developing. Hopefully this will reduce the need for prescriptions and expensive diagnostic tests.
 
“Allowing patients to self-refer also reduces the overall musculoskeletal workload for GP practices, which frees up appointment slots in busy clinics.”
 
To self-refer, patients need to fill in a form, giving details of what the problem is, any previous treatments they may have had for it and what they think has caused the problem.
 
This information will then be assessed by the physiotherapy team, who will contact patients within seven working days to arrange an appointment. 

Notification of investigation into Eastern Locality Community Services Procurement by health regulator Monitor

4 February 2015
 
On 21 January 2015, sector regulator Monitor published its decision to launch an investigation into the procurement of Community Services in Eastern Devon.
 
This follows a complaint by Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, the current temporary provider of these services, which claims the process used by the CCG to select the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust as the preferred provider of complex adult community services in Eastern Locality was not consistent with the CCG’s regulatory obligations.
 
Public and stakeholder views and opinions will form a key part of this investigation and everyone has the opportunity to feed in to this process.
 
Full details of the investigation timeline and issues are available on the Monitor website
 
NEW Devon CCG stands firmly by its decision to select the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust as the preferred provider of complex adult community services in Eastern Locality. This follows an extensive assessment and process, which concluded that integrated services are best for patients, and indeed what patients told us they wanted.
 
Furthermore, we remain confident that we have fulfilled all of our statutory obligations and welcome the investigation by Monitor, which we will be fully co-operating with.
 
A rigorous process has been undertaken by the CCG as part of this work and public and stakeholder input has been a fundamental part of that process.  Views, opinions and insight have been paramount in helping shape and form the decisions we have made and directions we have pursued.
 
Up to date details of the Transforming Community Services Programme undertaken by NEW Devon CCG can be found here.
 
Monitor has confirmed its investigation is based on a single complaint by the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust on the award of preferred provider status for Eastern Locality and not related to the same process followed for the Northern or Western localities. 
 
Over the 20 months since NEW Devon CCG commenced this programme, we have adapted and flexed our approach in response to feedback and to take into account new policy developments. In doing so, we have taken careful account of national procurement regulations and also the Monitor Guidance in relation to these regulations.

All of this will be described in our response to Monitor which we will publish on our website.  We would like to thank the many people whose insights and advice has helped us understand what good integration means to patients, carers and clinicians and this will underpin our response. 
 
Monitor is inviting responses from other interested third parties by 11 February 2015 and therefore we would encourage you to respond. 

Responses can either be sent directly to Monitor by email to coopandcompcases@monitor.gov.uk or you can email the CCG directly on d-ccg.community@nhs.net and responses will be collated and sent to Monitor on your behalf.

Monitor say they intend to publish the responses they receive, so if there’s anything confidential in your response, please let them know when you send it. 

‘Take extra care’ say local doctors, as Met Office issues severe weather warning

4 February 2015

Doctors are warning people across Devon to take extra care and look out for others ahead of a second cold snap due to hit the region this week.
 
The Met Office has raised a Level 3 cold weather alert across the South West meaning conditions are likely to worsen, with a high possibility of widespread ice and heavy snow.
 
The bad weather means increased pressure on the NHS locally as the likelihood of weather related accidents and illness increases.
 
People are being asked to use health services wisely, using self-care where possible and only attending A&E in an emergency.
 
Dr David Jenner, a GP from Devon and Board member of Northern, Eastern Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG), said: “We want to encourage people to continue to use 999 and A&Es only in life threatening situations. This really helps us to make sure those who need care get it, and this will continue to be important as the cold weather gets more severe.

“January was a very busy month and the situation continues to be challenging. We have put in place our winter plans to boost the support we have available and continue to prioritise those who are most in need.
 
“We really appreciate the public’s support in helping reduce pressure on the NHS by choosing the best service for their needs.”
 
How you can help keep yourself and others warm and well.
 
Simple things like staying warm, stocking up on over the counter medicine and checking on neighbours are just some ways people can help themselves.
 
If it is not possible to keep the whole house warm, just heat one main room and the bedroom and stay there.
 
The best way to stay warm is to wear several thin layers of clothing. If you have to go outside, as well as layering up, wear non-slip shoes to help prevent yourself from falling.
 
If you do fall or become ill, there’s a great range of NHS services in Devon which offer help and treatment quickly and avoid long waits at busy A&E departments.
If it’s not an emergency, call or visit your GP practice, pharmacy or minor injuries unit, or call NHS 111.

The following handy tips have been reissued by NEW Devon CCG:
 
  • Try your family or self-care - for minor illnesses, combine medicines for coughs, colds or flu with plenty of rest.
  • Pharmacist/chemist - pharmacists are trained to help people with minor illnesses and can advise on medicine that can be bought over the counter. Your nearest pharmacy can be found here: www.nhs.uk. Some pharmacies are open extended hours.
  • NHS 111 – for non-emergency health needs, which operates all day, every day, as well as help to find services. Go to www.nhs.uk or call 111.
  • NHS minor injuries unit (MIU) - for treatment of minor illnesses or injuries, without an appointment. For details of your nearest MIU, go to www.nhs.uk. The Plymouth MIU is based at the Cumberland Centre in Devonport, near Plymouth Albion rugby club – set your sat nav to PL1 4JZ.
  • Family doctor – Your local general GP surgery provides a wide range of family health services, including: advice on health problems, vaccinations, examinations and treatment, prescriptions for medicines, referrals to other health services and social services. Your surgery will make sure you get to speak to a healthcare professional on the same day if you have an urgent condition.
  • Hospital emergency departments or 999 – please only attend hospital emergency departments if you have an immediate and serious problem that cannot be dealt with by the other services. 999 only for critical or life-threatening situations.

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