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Additional support available at GP practices

Ahead of Social Prescribing Day, health chiefs are highlighting the wide range of different roles now available at GP practices in the Black Country.

Taking place on Thursday 9 March, Social Prescribing Day aims to celebrate and raise awareness of the impact social prescribing can have on people’s health and wellbeing.
 
Social prescribing is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs. It enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services to support their health and wellbeing.
 
Your GP practice may refer you to a social prescribing link worker who can connect you with local community organisations including bereavement groups, dementia cafes, art classes, debt management services, physical activity groups and fitness classes.
 
Those who could benefit from social prescribing schemes include people with one or more long-term conditions, those who need support with their mental health, vulnerable groups, people who are socially isolated, and those who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care.
 
The NHS has also created a video to highlight the role of social prescribing, which can be found on YouTube here.
 
Matt Brookes, a Social Prescribing Link Worker for Brierley Hill and Amblecote Primary Care Network, said: “Social prescribing link workers support people who may be bereaved or have lost a job or lost a sense of confidence. They may be struggling with an illness, having difficultly just finding their way in life or someone who is up against the pressures of life and doesn’t know how to cope.
 
“We work with the patient and together we find a way forward and identify steps to help process their lives and the way they work. It’s all patient led, and they aren’t told what to do. One of the greatest gifts I give to people is to say, it is ok to feel this way, you aren’t going mad or crazy. And the sense of peace that comes over them is great.
 
“The role is unique because it isn’t medicine led. It’s a holistic approach which looks at mind, body, and spirit, without trying to prescribe drugs. It encourages patients to become directly involved in their care planning and to take more control of their own health.”
In the Black Country, GP practices are working differently to offer more appointments for their patients. As well as social prescriber link workers, your local GP practice team may include nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, physician associates, and healthcare assistants, who work alongside GPs to ensure patients see the right person at the right time.
 
Sarb Basi, Director of Primary Care for the NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board, said: “With demand on primary care increasing, it’s important that we do things in a new way to help improve patients’ experience and access to GP services.
 
“Our multidisciplinary team approach means we have a range of highly skilled and qualified professionals working together with GPs to deliver high quality support for all our patients.
 
“If it is most appropriate for patients to see a doctor, they will still be offered an appointment with a GP. However, the GP isn’t always the best person to see. The new roles now available at practices means people may be offered an appointment with a different healthcare professional who will be able to help based on their needs.
 
“GP practices are working differently, but they are very much open and here for you.”
 
For more information on the different roles available at GP practices, visit the Black Country ICB website here.

Signs and symptoms of stroke

People in the Black Country are being reminded of the signs and symptoms of a stroke and the importance of seeking urgent treatment.

A stroke is a serious, life-threatening condition which occurs when blood supply is cut off to part of your brain.
 
Like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain injury, disability and possibly death.
 
It is a medical emergency and urgent treatment is essential. The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.
 
The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person, but usually begin suddenly. The most common symptoms can be easily remembered with the word FAST:
  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech- their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake. They may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
  • Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.
Other symptoms can include weakness in one side, including hands, legs and feet, blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes, sudden memory loss or confusion, or a sudden, severe headache.
 
Almost 3,000 people in the Black Country experience a stroke every year.
 
Dr Salma Reehana, a local GP in the Black Country, said: “Stroke is a life-threatening condition where urgent medical attention is absolutely vital, and time is of the essence.
 
“Early treatment not only saves lives but results in a greater chance of a better recovery, as well as a likely reduction in permanent disability from stroke. That’s why it’s important that people familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of a stroke and call 999 immediately if they notice any of these.
 
“Even if the symptoms go away, you or the person having a stroke should still go to hospital for an urgent assessment.”
 
Stroke can strike at any time and happen to anyone. The best way to help reduce the risk of stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
 
Dr Reehana added: “The way we live can have a big impact on our risk of stroke. Knowing your blood pressure and living a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity and healthy eating, are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk.
 
“Certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heartbeat, and diabetes can also increase the chances of having a stroke. So, if you have been diagnosed with a condition known to increase your risk, ensuring it is well controlled, such as taking any prescribed medication, is really important to help prevent a stroke.”
 
For more information on strokes, visit the NHS website here.
 
Mark’s Story
 
In 2016, Mark Harding visited his GP for a health check-up and was diagnosed with high cholesterol. A year later he suffered a stroke and now the 56-year-old is raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke to look out for.
 
Mark said: “A year before I had my stroke, I visited my GP for an annual health check and was advised that my cholesterol was too high. I was given a prescription for statins and advised to take one tablet a day to help lower my cholesterol. However, I made the decision not to get the prescription from the pharmacy and instead tried to manage it myself with my diet.
 
“The day before I was diagnosed with a stroke, I was at home on a Sunday and doing a bit of DIY. This involved crouching down and leaning into small spaces to access some pipes. It took longer than I thought and after I had finished, I stood up and felt an overwhelming feeling of nausea, severe dizziness and shooting pains down my right arm. I sat on the bed for a few minutes and the dizziness and nausea went, but my right arm felt numb and heavy. At the time I just thought I’d leant on it too long and thought that I had perhaps trapped a nerve from being positioned awkwardly for a long period of time.
 
“I remember going for a shower and I felt really funny. I couldn’t grab or hold the shampoo or shower gel bottles as I had a weakness in my arm and hand. It took me ages to get showered and dressed, but again I just put it down to being a bit stressed and tired from the DIY and went downstairs and had dinner. I had a banging headache and so took some paracetamol after I’d eaten and went to bed.
 
“When I woke up on the Monday morning, I still didn’t feel right. The pain and numbness in my arm was slightly worse and my headache was really bad too. Looking back, I knew something wasn’t right and I was really worried, but I still got myself ready and drove to work. I work in dispatch and have to sign for items to leave the warehouse, however that morning when I tried to write my name into a small signature box on a piece of paper, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hold my pen properly and I couldn’t position and co-ordinate my hand or arm either.
 
“I called my wife, and she said I should go to A&E as maybe I had a trapped a nerve. I went to Russell’s Hall Hospital, explained my symptoms and after being assessed for injury, a stroke assessment was carried out. I was quite quickly admitted to the stroke ward where I had numerous tests including blood tests, an ECG, and a CT scan. It was then confirmed that I’d had a stroke and a consultant came to see me to tell me that I had artery plaque build-up in my neck caused by cholesterol and would need surgery to remove it.
 
“The consultant advised that some of this plaque had detached and travelled in my bloodstream to my brain, causing the stroke. Surgery was scheduled for the following Monday, but due to the high risk of it happening again, I was in kept in hospital for a week under observation. I remained in hospital for two days following the surgery and was prescribed blood thinning medication and statins to take daily.
 
“It was a really worrying time, especially for my family and friends. I had four weeks off work and had to take it easy whilst I recovered. This meant I had to depend on others to help me with simple tasks like driving me around and carrying things for me, which wasn’t something I was comfortable with as I’m very independent. My children were also young at the time, and I wasn’t able to play with them or pick them up which was really difficult.
 
“Once I was home, I was asked to deliver my discharge information to my GP. At this appointment, my GP advised he had highlighted my high cholesterol the year before and prescribed medication to reduce it, however he could see that I had never picked up the prescription and taken the medication. He advised my stroke may not have occurred had I followed his advice. I also had to inform my siblings of my condition as it can be hereditary. Both my brother and sister saw their GP straight away and they were both diagnosed with the high cholesterol and given medication to manage it.
 
“I feel very lucky that my stroke was caught in time. Looking back, I knew some of the symptoms I was experiencing were a sign of a stroke, especially the numbness in the arm, but because I didn’t have all of them, I wasn’t 100 % sure. The only long-lasting effect of my stroke is my little finger on my right hand doesn’t function anymore and I have a four-inch scar on my neck, but I’m so grateful that I’m still here.
 
“I am fully recovered now and take my prescribed medication daily without fail. My advice to anyone who may be experiencing any stroke symptoms is to call 999 or go to the hospital straight away. Don’t ignore it, even if you don’t have all the symptoms, trust your gut instinct, and seek advice as soon as possible.
 
“And, if you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, or any other condition that increases your risk of stroke, don’t ignore the advice of your GP. Had I followed my GPs advice in the first place, I may never have had a stroke and whilst I know I should never say never, by taking my medication as prescribed, I know I am now less at risk of another stroke in the future.”
 

NHS Board Meeting to Highlight Successful Valentine's Day Initiative

Halesowen Cultural Centre will host Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust’s next Board Meeting on Tuesday 7th March 2023 at 9:30 am. Members of the public are invited to attend and hear about the latest healthcare developments and initiatives.

At the meeting, attendees will hear about an exciting new initiative, led by pharmacists, 4th-year pharmacy students, and sexual health professionals. Earlier this year, on Valentine's Day, the team set up a booth at the Merry Hill Centre to promote healthy hearts and sexual health.

This initiative is just one example of the innovative ways in which healthcare professionals are working to improve health and well-being in Dudley. The Board Meeting is an excellent opportunity for the public to learn more about the latest developments and ask questions of their healthcare providers.

Sarah Baig, Pharmacy Professional Development and Governance Lead at Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust said:

"We are thrilled to share the success of this Valentine's Day initiative at the Board Meeting and with the public"

"It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our healthcare professionals and their commitment to improving the health of our community and reducing health inequalities."

“It is also a great example of collaborative cross-organisational working, we partnered with the University of Birmingham school of pharmacy, the local pharmaceutical committee and Brook Sexual Health charity to deliver this much-needed initiative to the people of Dudley.”

Harry Turner, Chairman of DIHC, said:

“Our Board meetings are a great way to find out what is happening locally in health and care and to see how decisions are made.

“We encourage people to come along and join us and see what progress has been made over the last month. We welcome questions from the public and the Board is always keen to hear perspectives from local people.

“If you have a question, please submit them in advance of the meeting and we can respond.”

The meeting will include updates from the Trust’s Board Members and an opportunity for attendees to ask questions of the board. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

Members of the public who would like to attend the meeting or send a question in advance should email

For more information, visit the DIHC website www.dihc.nhs.uk/about-the-trust/our-trust-board


New data shows rise in GP appointments

Almost 70,000 more GP appointments were held in January this year than in December, new data for the Black Country has revealed.

The latest figures for GP access show that 609,685 appointments took place in January, up from 541,146 in December 2022.
 
Of these, 46% took place on the same day and 73% of appointments were face to face, which is up from 54% compared to January 2021.
 
The vital role of the wider teams working alongside GPs was also clear in the statistics, as 47% of all appointments were with other trained health professionals such as practice nurses, advanced nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
 
Dr Salma Reehana, a local GP in the Black Country, said: “Like much of the NHS, demand for GP services continues to increase, and our teams are working harder than ever to ensure patients get the care they need.
 
“We are proud of our primary care colleagues who have embraced technology and new ways of working, enabling us to provide more primary care appointments in our system than ever before, despite a fall in the number of GPs.
 
“There isn’t one type of appointment that suits all patients and GPs in the Black Country have adapted to provide patients with alternative methods of accessing services via telephone and online consultations, whilst continuing to offer face-to-face appointments when clinically appropriate.
 
“Many GP practices now have a range of health professionals and trained clinicians available who can also diagnose and treat health conditions. This ensures patients see the right person at the right time more quickly and allows GPs to spend more time with patients with the greatest needs.
 
“Additional GP appointments are now also available on evenings and weekends, giving patients more choice and flexibility for routine, bookable appointments to fit in with their busy schedules and family commitments.
 
“It’s important that people know their GP is open and here for them, so I would encourage. anyone who needs help to come forward. However, please help us help you by choosing the correct service for you. For any minor illnesses, your local pharmacist should be your first port of call. Pharmacists are trained medical professionals and can help recognise and treat many common illnesses. They can give advice and, where appropriate, recommend over-the-counter medicines that could help clear up the problem.”
 
The new statistics have also revealed that 6% of appointments were DNAs, which is where a patient fails to attend an appointment but does not cancel so it can be rebooked by the practice. In many practices appointments can be cancelled by text or online, so there’s no need to phone.
 
Dr Reehana added: “More than 36,000 appointment slots were missed in January across the Black Country. These slots are incredibly precious, especially as demand for appointments remains high, so we would encourage those who no longer need an appointment to make every effort to cancel in advance so somebody else can have the slot.”
 
For more information on the different roles available at GP practices and the enhanced access arrangements, click here.

New service to treat urine infections now offered in pharmacies

A number of pharmacies across the Black Country now offer patients easy access to advice and treatments for urinary tract infections (UTIs).

A three-month pilot, aimed at women aged 16-64, has been launched to enable local community pharmacists to treat patients with UTIs without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections seen in female patients, with over 40 percent of women likely to suffer from one in their lifetime. Symptoms include:

  • Burning or stinging sensation when passing urine
  • Needing to pass urine frequently or urgently
  • Cloudy urine
  • Passing excessive or large quantities of urine.

Over the last six months, more than 8,500 women in the Black Country aged between 16-64 have presented at their GP practice with a UTI.

Sarb Basi, Director of Primary Care for the NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board, said: “UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections that GPs see in female patients. They can develop quickly, be extremely painful and, understandably, patients want fast access to rapid relief of symptoms. As a result, it means UTIs take up a large proportion of resource within the healthcare system.

“Previously, pharmacists have only been able to provide over-the-counter treatments that offer relief from the symptoms of a UTI. However, this scheme will now allow pharmacists to provide the appropriate treatment to address and treat the underlying bacterial infection causing the infection.

“Community pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals who play a fantastic role in ensuring that thousands of people have their minor ailment needs addressing quickly. They are a prime example of getting the right care, in the right place, at the right time, and the introduction of this pilot demonstrates the enhanced role that pharmacists can play in supporting services provided by the NHS and GP practices.

“Not all patients with a UTI will need antibiotics, but if they do, they can now be provided quickly and conveniently without the need for a GP appointment or prescription. So, I would encourage anyone who thinks they may have a UTI to take advantage of this new service and make their local pharmacy their first port of call.”

There are more than 170 pharmacies across the Black Country signed up to offer support and treatment for UTIs. Click here for more information and to find your nearest participating pharmacy. 

Community pharmacies in the North East and North Cumbria were the first to launch the #ByeByeUTI initiative back in July 2022. Since then, more than a thousand women have benefited from the scheme. More information can be found on the NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board website here.