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Preparing for winter pressures

As the cold weather starts creeping in, so does the ill-health and increased pressure on public health services. This winter let’s focus on prevention and providing people with the information and support needed to manage their own health better.

Many health conditions, such as respiratory system diseases and seasonal cold and flu can be caused or worsened by the cold weather. This means the NHS often face much greater pressure in winter, due to increasing numbers of patients with long-term medical conditions, delays in the transfer of patients between different parts of the service and the frequency of infectious diseases which peak during the winter.

Seasonal demands

On average, 70% of hospitals had a bed occupancy level over 92% during the first six weeks of last winter – an extreme level of demand that put tremendous pressure on NHS services.

Seasonal illness affects healthcare professionals too, and if clinicians are off sick, there are fewer nurses or clinicians to meet the demand and influx of patients. Hospitals and clinics can’t close their doors, and so the load of patients is simply shared between whoever is left standing. 

Winter pressure demands on acute services increasingly impacts the delivery of care. And although increased pressure on acute hospital services during winter is common, there is a lot we can do to plan for these busy periods.

What can you do?

Encourage the uptake of immunisations

By promoting the flu jab and increasing the uptake of the vaccine throughout the months leading up to the busy winter period, reduces the risks of flu within your area. Although the flu jab does not 100% guarantee that patients will be flu-free, it has shown to reduce the strain on clinics within the NHS. The more people who get their jabs, the stronger their immune systems will be – resulting in less sick patients and less people requiring medical care.

Promote patient use of online services

Many doctors’ appointments can be dealt with successfully without physically seeing a GP for treatment. Consider telephone appointments and online consultations to help reduce the chances of spreading winter illnesses. By promoting the use of online services, practices can ensure patient safety by reducing the risk of infection while in the waiting room. If people can self-serve online, they’ll help reduce the need for calls or face-to-face appointments which could contribute to spreading sickness.

Encourage pharmacy services

Pharmacists have the skills and knowledge to advise on certain illnesses and dispense the relevant medication without a prescription. Pharmacy services are available for minor health concerns such as coughs, colds, tummy aches and sore throats. In the upcoming months leading to winter, make sure you are dealing with minor illnesses as soon as they arise to avoid it becoming a serious and costly issue.

Don’t miss appointments

Set reminders for yourself so that you don’t miss any healthcare appointments. The better you plan and the sooner you get help, the less of a strain will be placed on health services later down the line.

Communication is key

Social media and word of mouth play a big role in communication and raising awareness around certain topics. With 90% of the population having access to internet, we can use social platforms to educate people on virus updates or whether there’s a bug going around and to stay indoors. This can  

Promote overall wellbeing

Winter can be a tough time both mentally and physically. Make sure you are drinking enough water, taking your vitamins/ immune boosters and exercising to help aid your overall health and wellbeing. Although maintaining your physical health during the winter months can be difficult, it can help improve mental health too.


With Covid not yet escaping us and many new viruses on the rise, it is important to be prepared for the winter weather and to do your part to reduce pressure on the healthcare system. Do your part to improve your health and the health of your family.