Health services across the West Midlands are urging the public to keep themselves healthy during the cold weather and avoid admission to hospital.
Health chiefs are also asking people to ‘choose well’ when using the NHS. Health and the emergency services across the region are predicting a busy period over the next few days as the cold snap continues.
If it’s not an emergency, please don’t go to A&E or ring 999. People can help the NHS during these busy times by making sure they ‘choose well’ and consider using other parts of the NHS, such as a pharmacist, your GP, NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or on-line at www.nhs.uk If you need treatment, consider using a walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.
Whilst ‘winter vomiting diseases’ such as noroviruses are at normal levels for this time of year, the viruses can exacerbated by cold weather, particularly in those who are already ill or who have a long term condition. Outbreaks of these illnesses are common, particularly within contained environments such as hospitals and nursing homes, where spread can be easy.
Good hygiene can help to limit the spread of the infection and there are some simple steps that the public can take to help stop a norovirus spreading:
* The elderly should also ensure they drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration should they get norovirus.
* Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, particularly after using the toilet, and before preparing food.
* Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with a norovirus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner. Always follow the instructions on the cleaning product.
* Flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet. You should also keep the surrounding toilet area clean and hygienic.
* Wash any clothing, or linens, which could have become contaminated with a norovirus. Washing with hot, soapy water will help to ensure that the virus is killed.
Dr Rashmi Shukla, Regional Director of Public Health, NHS West Midlands said: “Winter always brings a seasonal round of colds, flu, viruses and other ailments.
“Some visits to A&E are avoidable and can lead to delays in people being seen in the emergency departments, especially this year when the typical winter illnesses are circulating.
“We’re sure that most people would much prefer to avoid a trip to A&E if they possibly can. Remember also that viruses can easily spread to vulnerable people - if you think you may have flu or a stomach bug, you should avoid visiting friends and family in hospital and nursing or residential homes if you can.
“You may be asked to rearrange outpatient appointments if you have had recent symptoms to protect yourself and others. Norovirus infection is more serious and even more easily spread among people who are already ill.
“We hope our guidance will help patients to seek the right medical advice, by choosing well, whether that means a visit to A&E or treatment nearer to their homes.
“The NHS is always prepared and is used to planning for winter, and this year is no different.”