Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has launched a major campaign, fronted by local health professionals, to help people ‘Stay Well This Winter’.
‘Stay Well’ encourages people, especially those at most risk of a preventable hospital admission, to take actions that will help them stay well during winter. This includes getting a flu vaccination, keeping homes warm and getting advice from a pharmacist as appropriate at the first sign of illness. It also incorporates key advice around common winter illnesses and the range of services available to help people make the most appropriate choices for their healthcare needs.
The Minister said: “I am delighted to support the ‘Stay Well’ campaign, which sees local doctors, nurses and pharmacists, at the frontline of our health service, encouraging people to take better care of their health.
“The first phase will focus on flu – we know that only 50% of preschool children in the north of Ireland and less than 60% of people considered most at risk took up the offer of the free flu vaccine last year. This was despite flu being one of the most common causes of winter illness, often resulting in serious complications and leading to hospital admissions.
“The campaign will encourage people to get the flu vaccine, which is available at GP clinics for people over 65 years, people with a long-term health condition, pregnant women and preschool children aged two and above. All primary school children will be offered the flu nasal spray at school.
“The second phase of the campaign is about encouraging people to look after themselves during the winter months – whether that means a trip to a pharmacist if you need advice on managing cough or cold symptoms; or for older people, a reminder to keep warm during the winter months by putting on an extra layer or making sure their homes are warm. Closer to Christmas, people will be reminded to order their repeat prescriptions well in advance of the holiday season when GP clinics may be shut for a longer period. The final phase of the campaign will urge people to use the range of services appropriately, with a particular focus on GP out-of-hours services.”
The campaign is jointly led by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the Public Health Agency (PHA) and will run from October 2016 to the end of March 2017 across a range of channels, including TV, outdoor advertising, social media and websites.
Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “This campaign is about encouraging people to take better care of themselves, planning ahead so they are prepared to face the winter in better health, while ensuring that our health service remains focused on delivering care where it is most needed.
“It will support older and vulnerable people to stay well, and when they need care, assist them, their families and carers to make informed decisions on the best services to use. I am hopeful that it will also help reduce hospital admissions and ease pressures on finite services.”