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Free flu vaccination for people with respiratory conditions

People in the Black County living with respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are being reminded to come forward for a free flu vaccine.

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes breathing difficulties and can affect people of all ages. Those with asthma often have sensitive, inflamed airways that lead to symptoms like coughing, wheezing, feeling breathless, or a tight chest.

COPD is the name for a group of lung conditions that causes breathing difficulties in adults, including emphysema (damage to the air sac in the lungs) and chronic bronchitis (long-term inflammation of the airways).

People with asthma are more likely to have an asthma attack if they catch the flu virus, and those with COPD are more likely to develop pneumonia. These complications can sometimes be life-threatening and lead to hospitalisation.

With almost 79,000 people living with asthma and more than 26,000 people living with COPD in the Black Country, health chiefs are encouraging those eligible to come forward for a flu vaccine if they haven’t already done so.

Dr Max Matonhodze, Respiratory Consultant at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

“If you have a respiratory illness such as COPD or asthma, it’s really important that you look after yourself, especially in the winter when the weather gets colder and respiratory viruses such as the flu start to circulate.

“Flu puts extra strain on your lungs, which can have a significant effect on people with lung conditions, making serious illness more likely.

“The flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to help protect against flu and is designed to help protect those who are most at risk from developing complications from the virus. That’s why we are asking all eligible individuals to get their flu jab today if they haven’t taken up the offer of getting it already.”

To date, more than 50% of all those in the Black Country with an eligible long-term health condition have received their free flu vaccination, but there are thousands more who can still come forward.

Flu is in circulation throughout the winter months, so it is never too late to take up the offer of vaccination, even if you have previously declined and have changed your mind.

Viv Marsh, specialist asthma nurse and Black Country clinical lead for children and young people’s asthma transformation, said:

“Many people with asthma are used to managing their health well, but may not realise that flu can hit fast. Even if their respiratory condition is mild, flu can trigger symptoms that leave them fighting for breath and increase the risk of a life-threatening asthma attack.

“The flu virus is highly infectious and can also spread very quickly among children. Even healthy children can become seriously ill from flu, however, it can be more serious for children with health conditions such as asthma.

“When you have the flu, airways become more inflamed, and more mucus is produced. This means there’s less room for the air to get through which can make it harder to breathe and can trigger asthma symptoms.

“Having the flu vaccination is the best way to stay protected against flu. For children, the vaccination is usually given via a nasal spray into each nostril which is quick and painless, so I’d encourage parents and carers with eligible children to come forward as soon as they can.”

The nasal spray vaccine offers the best protection for children aged two to 17 years. They will be offered a flu vaccine injection if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them. Injected flu vaccines are also safe and effective.

For more information on the flu vaccine for children, click here, and for more information on asthma, click here.

For more information on the flu vaccine for long-term conditions, visit the NHS website here. Those eligible may be contacted by their GP practice to book an appointment. Alternatively, vaccinations can be booked at a local pharmacy via the National Booking System.


Visit your local pharmacy this winter for dry skin

People in the Black Country are being reminded to make their local pharmacy the first port of call for dry skin this winter.

Dry skin can occur at any time of the year, but it can become more common as the weather becomes colder. It can appear at any age and, whilst it usually doesn’t present any serious problems, it can be associated with other medical conditions such as eczema, contact dermatitis, and psoriasis.

The skin is made up of many different layers and it forms a natural barrier to protect our body from the outside environment. To help protect the outer layer of the skin from losing water, the skin produces an oily substance called sebum. If the skin does not have enough sebum, it loses water which causes dry skin.

Common causes of dry skin include:

  • Excessive bathing
  • Showering, scrubbing the skin while washing, or harsh soaps that dissolve the protective layer of sebum
  • Environmental conditions that increase water loss, such as very hot, dry weather or central heating
  • Frequent exposure to wind and sun can evaporate water from the skin, making the surface feel itchy and dry
  • Decreased production of sebum, which is often a factor in the elderly.

To help reduce symptoms, emollients can be used to moisturise the skin. Emollients are moisturising treatments that are applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it. There are various types of emollients that can be bought over the counter at your local pharmacy to reduce dryness, help with itching and soften cracks.

Stephen Noble, local pharmacist and Chief Officer of the Dudley Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said:

“Just like any other part of your body, your skin also needs to be looked after. Dry skin is a common condition for people of all ages, particularly during the winter when the skin is exposed to cold weather and lower levels of moisture in the air.

“Your local pharmacy should always be your first choice for help with dry skin. Pharmacists are highly trained experts in medicines, and they can offer you advice and treatments without you needing to see a GP.

“As well as getting the right medication from a local pharmacist, there are also lifestyle changes that can be made which can help to treat and prevent future outbreaks of dry skin. This includes stopping smoking, drinking plenty of water, reducing the length of your baths or showers, avoiding harsh soaps and bubble baths, and avoiding wearing synthetic materials for prolonged periods. Increasing humidity levels with a humidifier can also help as dry air increases the risk of dry skin.”

Patients registered with GP practices in the Black Country can also make use of the PharmacyFirst service. This service provides people who are exempt from prescription charges with free over-the-counter medicines, so they do not need to see a GP to receive the medication on prescription.

For more information on Pharmacy First and to find participating pharmacies, click here.

To find your nearest pharmacy and check opening times, visit here.


Join Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trusts monthly Board Meeting this December

On Tuesday 6th December 2022, Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust will be holding its monthly Board Meeting which is open for the public to attend.

The Trust wants to ensure that it does all it can to create a regular opportunity for the public to hear about the work that is being undertaken, whilst also promoting a culture of transparency.

The meeting offers a chance to meet and hear directly from both Executive and Non-Executive Directors from the Trust.

December’s Board Meeting will take place at Dudley College of Technology. To confirm your attendance, email  - you can also use this email address to send any questions that you might have or would like to raise on the day.

Date: Tuesday 6th December 2022

Time: 9:30am

Address: Dudley College of Technology, The Broadway, Dudley DY1 4AS

Register, or ask a question


Join Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trusts monthly Board Meeting this January

On Tuesday 10th January 2023, Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust will be holding its monthly Board Meeting which is open for the public to attend.

The Trust wants to ensure that it does all it can to create a regular opportunity for the public to hear about the work that is being undertaken, whilst also promoting a culture of transparency.

The meeting offers a chance to meet and hear directly from both Executive and Non-Executive Directors from the Trust.

January's Board Meeting will take place at Dudley Canal Trust. To confirm your attendance, email  - you can also use this email address to send any questions that you might have or would like to raise on the day.

Date: Tuesday 10th January 2023

Time: 9:30 am

Address: Dudley Canal Trust, Birmingham New Road, Dudley, West Midlands, DY1 4SB

Register, or ask a question


World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) 2022

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is a global campaign aiming to increase the understanding of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and promote best practices to reduce the emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness, and death.

Taking place between 18 and 24th November 2022, this year’s campaign theme is `Preventing antimicrobial resistance together` which asks all sectors to consider the sensible use of antimicrobials and to strengthen preventive measures addressing AMR, working together collaboratively through a One Health approach.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics impacts the NHS today. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens are associated with repeat primary care consultations, more hospital admissions, longer lengths of stay, and increased mortality. The global burden of bacterial AMR has recently been estimated at almost 5 million deaths associated with, and 1.27 million deaths directly attributable to AMR each year.

Hitesh Patel, Pharmaceutical Adviser at Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust said:

`Raising awareness of the risks of antimicrobial resistance is very important

'Many infections like coughs and colds are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are not effective. Ask your pharmacist for advice and over-the-counter medicines

‘If you are prescribed antibiotics take them exactly as advised and don’t share them with family and friends

`Now more than ever we need to continue working together to avoid inappropriate antibiotic prescribing and do our part to reduce antimicrobial resistance`