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Make sure you are prepared for winter, as A&E departments are expected to be under pressure

Posted on 11/09/2013

As our heatwave becomes a distant memory and the colder weather is starting to creep in, it is never too soon to start preparing for the winter months and helping older relatives and neighbours to do the same.

A&E departments are expected to be under a lot of pressure this winter, and there is help being given by the government to help meet people’s needs. Funding worth £250m is being given to NHS trusts in England to help ease the burden, and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for better care of the elderly.

Part of Mr Hunt’s plans include bringing back named GPs for patients, so that they receive more personalised care and hopefully a reduction in emergency care admissions. Over-65s make up around 17% of the population, but they account for 68% of emergency beds in the NHS. This is because elderly people feel “that there is no reliable alternative to hospitals”, according to Mr Hunt.

While these measures could help, A&E departments are still likely to find winter tough and prevention is always better than cure. There are some simple precautions that you can follow to ensure a safe and secure winter.

First, staying warm is a priority for older people in particular. Make sure that heating systems are checked and properly maintained before they are needed. A well-serviced heating system is more efficient and cost-effective to run, as well as doing its job.

Check around the house for draughts as well, through windows and under doors. Think of ways to block these off using draught excluders and thick, well-fitting curtains. Wasting heat costs more, so keep it in to make the most of it.

Clothing wise, dress in layers so that you can add and remove clothing easily to adjust to differing temperatures.

Make sure that there is enough food and water in the house in case we get heavy snow again this year. Having a few non-perishables to hand is useful if it’s difficult to get out to the shops for a day or two. Be prepared for these conditions by having all emergency phone numbers to hand, keep a blanket and torch nearby, and make sure that there is someone who can check in on you and help with anything you might need.

Before winter starts, check with your local authority to see if you are entitled to any help, whether that is financial towards heating costs, or essential services tailored towards the more vulnerable people. Some councils, for example, have a free handyman service for elderly and disabled people. The services are there for you to use, so make the most of them.

Loneliness can be more of a problem in the winter months, so consider signing up to local community events for company. There are usually events for every hobby, from baking to sewing, and coffee mornings if you just want a chat. If you have elderly relatives or neighbours, pop in and say hello, even if it’s just a short visit. They might appreciate a friendly face and a cup of tea to break up the day.

We’ll be posting more advice on all these topics throughout the winter months, so keep an eye on our website, as well as our Twitter and Facebook pages. 

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