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Media release - GP leader urges people to have the flu vaccination

Friday, 23 September, 2016

A GP leader in Devon is urging people to help themselves – and the local NHS – by visiting their local doctor’s surgery to have the flu vaccination before winter.

Having the vaccine will help protect people against flu – and ease the pressure on the local NHS when it is notoriously stretched during the busiest time of the year.

Flu is a highly infectious disease which can affect anyone, so people at risk are encouraged to have the vaccination, which will be available shortly in GP practices.

Some groups – including pregnant women, young children aged two to four, carers, those with long-term health conditions like heart disease or breathing problems, and over 65s – are more susceptible to flu and its effects, so it is particularly important that they are vaccinated. They can have the vaccine free of charge.

Dr Bruce Hughes, Chair of Devon Local Medical Committee, which represents and supports GPs in the county, said: “I’d encourage people to have the flu vaccination at their local GP practice. This year’s vaccine remains the best way to protect against the virus, stopping them feeling lousy and passing it on to others.

“The vaccine is free for eligible groups, fast and painless, and GP practices offer a personalised and safe service as they have access to patient medical records and are fully registered with the Care Quality Commission.

“People should not underestimate the effects of seasonal flu – it is not the same as getting a cold. While flu is an unpleasant illness for all who get it, it poses a real threat to the most vulnerable in society, sometimes hospitalising people, and even leading to death. Flu can make vulnerable people more likely to suffer complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia and can make existing conditions worse.

“The vaccination is still the first line of defence against flu. Having the vaccine helps life continue as normal – reducing things like school and work absences and protecting those vulnerable people who are susceptible to the complications of flu.”

Flu viruses are constantly changing and this is one of the main reasons why people should be vaccinated annually.

It’s recommended to have the vaccination in the autumn before any outbreaks of flu and people should speak to their GP practice about how to access the vaccine there. Some surgeries will be offering dedicated flu clinics.

The vaccine is administered by either a GP or practice nurse at the surgery, who can also offer aftercare, where necessary. Young children are vaccinated via a nasal spray – everyone else receives a quick injection. Vaccinating children has a double benefit: as well as protecting them from flu, it also protects others, such as grandparents and siblings, as children are much more likely to infect others.

Expectant mums should have the vaccine whatever stage of pregnancy they are in. Those who are pregnant could get very ill if they get flu, which could also be bad for their baby. Having the vaccine can also protect their baby against flu after they’re born and during the early months of life.

Dr Hughes, a GP partner at Fremington Medical Centre, near Barnstaple, added: “The more people who are vaccinated, the better, to reduce the spread of flu.

With winter on the way, it is a good idea for people to start thinking about how best to look after themselves during the colder months.

It’s important that people help themselves, and their local NHS, this winter by playing their part and taking greater control of their health. High uptake of the vaccine will help reduce the number of flu-related cases, particularly linked to long-term conditions, seen by local clinicians and other health professionals – freeing them up to deal with people with other ailments during the winter months when the local NHS system is under considerable and sustained pressure.”

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include a fever, chills, cough, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.

People who are otherwise fit and healthy usually don’t need to see a doctor if they have flu-like symptoms and should self-care. ‘At risk’ groups who display flu-like symptoms may wish to consider calling NHS 111 or their GP.

Basic hygiene will help prevent the spread of flu. This means covering the mouth and nose when people cough or sneeze, washing hands with soap and water and throwing used tissues straight in the bin.

For more information about flu, and the vaccination, visit the NHS Choices website at: www.nhs.uk