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Winter 2019Avoid the queues and beat the winter health blues

The biggest health choice you will face this winter is where and when to receive your treatment.

With no sign of significant extra resources, our hospitals will be creaking again as they try and maintain their splendid service.

Despite some wonderful local initiatives, such as triaging patients over the phone, GP surgeries will be full to the seams and appointments difficult to get.

Avoiding becoming ill is the most effective way of staying healthy in the cold. There are more flu jabs on offer this year than ever before.

These are dispensed free to those already facing life-limiting conditions such as COPD and to those who care for them.

If you are over 65 or already living with a chest condition you can also receive a complimentary pneumonia jab.

Should the sniffles and the aches and pains begin, you can do yourself a huge favour by firstly visiting the NHS Choices website or calling the 111 NHS helpline. The pharmacist might also assist in deciding what illness you are facing. Do you really want a four-hour wait in A&E to be told you have a cold and bill the NHS for the cost of some paracetamol?

Another way of preventing being poorly is to eat well, keep exercising and drink in moderation. Yes, we all long for feast time when we can rest up, hide away from the winter weather and eat, drink and be merry. But a short regular walk will do wonders for your health and the preponderance of fresh fruit and vegetables should be taken advantage of – for vitamin C is a great defence against colds.

Staying hydrated and not indulging in too many winter libations will increase your odds of staying healthy.

A well-stocked medicine cupboard and some thought about medication over the Christmas bank holidays is advisable. Out of hours appointments and walk-in centres are another alternative to the emergency department.

Winter is a particularly precarious season for the vulnerable and helping them stay well must be a priority. A quick check on an elderly neighbour or a kind word for a homeless person (my Homeless-Friendly initiative provides health care for rough sleepers at surgeries) would do wonders.

Stay warm, be hygienic when you cough or sneeze, and ensure you get proper sleep, are other tips to ensure that you stay well this winter.


Dr Chauhan is a respected GP, health and social care campaigner, and champion of social justice and charity. As a local GP, he has become a powerful advocate for his patients and introduced innovative methods to improve their care. His work mentoring and employing young people has won national recognition.