More investment in children's speech and language service

An extra £510,000 is being invested in speech and language therapy services in Norfolk each year, to help boost children’s communication skills.

Norfolk County Council and Norfolk’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups have agreed the extra funding, to help cope with increased demand on the service and ensure more children can get the help they need.

Online GP consultations

The NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk and Waveney are currently procuring a new IT system which will enable local GP practices to offer online patient consultations. It is expected that the new system would be available to practices in the early summer and already 30 practices across Norfolk and Waveney have expressed an interest. Whilst it is not possible to say when any particular practice will offer online consultations to its patients, any practice that chooses to do so will advise its patients in good time.

Online consultations involve patients contacting their GP surgery securely by using its websites or even an app. Their message is read and passed to the right member of staff to deal with, such as a pharmacist, nurse, therapist or GP. In some cases the patient can be helped or advised by responding securely online - otherwise they might be asked to come in for a face to face appointment or to pick up medicines.

One practice already offering online consultations since September is The Hollies in Downham Market. It is called “AskMyGP”, accessible via the practice website, and it has had a very positive response from patients.  The system allows people to submit a message which is managed during surgery opening hours. Patients receive a response online or by telephone or appointment.

The Hollies says “AskMyGP” has made a significant change in the way the practice team works. The new service has relieved a lot of stress regarding appointments, reduced telephone queues and allowed more choice in the way patients can interact with the practice.

Patients who have used the service have provided feedback on their experiences and since the launch, data shows a satisfaction rate of 93%, with patients agreeing that this new service has improved contact with the practice and patients are very pleased that a system is in place that suits their needs.

Video consultations

Video consultations require significant investment in IT, and the current IT infrastructure used by the NHS (called the ‘N3’) is not sufficient in Norfolk and Waveney. This is why we are working to upgrade systems with the new ‘Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) which has a greater bandwidth.
It will be some time before this is ready. When it is, GP practices will be invited to trial video consultations. We do not expect this to happen in the short term.

Cash boost for Heartsease healthy living schemes

Community organisations are celebrating a cash boost after a healthy living project awarded them all funding following a “fantastic” response from local residents who rallied behind the schemes.

People living in Heartsease were asked to vote for their favourite healthy living project with seven ideas put forward to help people get active, eat well and live better.

The project brought local organisations and businesses together to create projects that mattered and voting boxes were situated in community spaces such as Café 33, St Francis Church, Thorpe Wood Medical Practice and Vape Lounge. There was also an opportunity to vote online.

Organisers said the response to the vote which ran between December 15 and January 18 was fantastic, with over 200 residents taking part in the voting process.

Councillor Matthew Packer, Norwich City Council cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “The response was fantastic. The community of Heartsease showed overwhelming support for each of the projects.

“As a result, funding has been awarded to all of the proposed projects so that they can get started in the coming months.

“The community has also put forward suggestions for other things they would like to see happen in Heartsease, such as more activities for families. This is particularly important feedback that we can look into further.”

Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) provided funding for the healthy living projects which was overseen and supported by Norfolk Community Foundation.

Tracy Williams, Queens Nurse and Chair of NHS Norwich CCG, said: “We are delighted with the response and support from the residents of Heartsease.

“Keeping active, eating well and reducing fat and sugar in your diet are some of the key factors leading to a more healthy lifestyle. Taking these positive actions can be really good for your physical health and mental health and wellbeing.

“Making some healthy lifestyle changes, particularly that are as a part of a community and involve social activities, as these healthy living projects are, can really make a difference.”

The projects which have been awarded funding are:

  • Hot meals for the vulnerable and elderly at Cafe 33 – to provide hot meals, company and support for people who might benefit, on Mondays and Thursdays for 10 weeks. Award: £1,000
  • Table tennis taster sessions at Frere Road Community Centre – a series of free sessions open to anyone interested in learning how to play or improving their skills. Award: £400
  • Bushcraft sessions for children at Heartsease Primary Academy – a free after-school club which will provide sessions from Bushcraft instructors for 100 children, allowing them to develop skills, be active and improve wellbeing. Award: £1,000
  • Fortnightly cycling group run by Mind and Pushing Ahead – free, fun and friendly cycle rides for beginners and more experienced cyclists, helping alleviate stress and boost physical fitness. Award: £1,000
  • Free complementary therapy tasters and sessions from Mind – to feel pampered, tackle muscular pain or emotional difficulty with Mind’s experienced massage, reiki and reflexology therapists. This project would provide sessions for up to 60 people and is aimed at people who may not otherwise be able to afford to access these therapies. Award: £1,000
  • Healthy Hive drop in session at St Francis Church – relaxed, regular drop in sessions over 10 months, where people can come together to support each other’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Award: £990
  • Family community meals at St Francis Church with Food Cycle – weekly community meals for families to eat a healthy evening meal together and explore a variety of new foods. Award: £1,000

Protect yourself - and others - from flu

The flu virus typically peaks around this time of year and hospitals in Norfolk are seeing an increasing number of patients with flu symptoms.

Dr Louise Smith, Director of Public Health said: “If you have a bad cold or the flu, you are best to manage your illness from home, without seeing a doctor or visiting a hospital. You shouldn’t need to see your GP unless the symptoms become particularly severe, last far longer than usual or if you have a long-term health condition. If you think you might be suffering from flu and are concerned that your symptoms are worsening you can call NHS 111 for advice.”

Keeping well in the cold: What you can do

Health professionals are encouraging people in Norfolk and Waveney with respiratory conditions to stay well this winter.

People with respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or asthma can be particularly susceptible to the effects of cold weather, finding themselves shorter of breath or coughing more than usual.

Sam Oughton, COPD Nurse Specialist based in King’s Lynn, says: “If you have a long term health condition, particularly a lung condition, cold weather can trigger a flare up of symptoms as well as making someone more vulnerable to illness.

“If you know someone, a friend or a neighbour with COPD, or a lung condition, or anyone vulnerable to cold weather, do look out for them – have they collected their milk from the doorstep? Opened their curtains? Turned their lights on/off, or cleared their path of ice or snow?”

Every winter, GP surgeries and hospitals see an increase in visits from people with respiratory conditions. If you have a lung disease, here are some tips to help look after your lungs this winter.

Feeling unwell? Don’t wait

  • If you have a lung condition and are feeling unwell (onset of cold symptoms) don’t wait - seek advice from your local pharmacist, nurse or doctor.
  • Follow your self-management plan if you have one (patients with COPD should have one - if not ask your GP surgery/nurse for one).

Get the flu jab and avoid contact with people who have cold symptoms

  • Ensure you have both the flu and pneumonia vaccinations and avoid people with cold symptoms where possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and encourage other people around you to do the same.
  • Throw away used tissues as soon as you can and wash hands regularly.

Stay warm

  • Heat your home to at least 18c or even warmer if you don’t move around much or feel the cold.
  • Keep your bedroom warm and the window closed at night as breathing in cold air can increase the risk of a respiratory infection.
  • Wear layers of clothing as these trap the warm air better than one bulky layer, wear a hat indoors if needed, and keep a blanket nearby.
  • If you are unable to move around much make up a hot flask and have hot drinks/soup throughout day. Try and have one hot meal a day.

When you’re out and about

  • Check the weather report. If it is too cold or windy for you or you are not feeling well or are having trouble breathing stay indoors and keep warm.
  • If you do go out take reliever medication 30 mins before going out to help prevent cold air tightening the airways.
  • Wear a scarf/snood to cover your mouth and cheeks to stop the cold air tightening your airways.

The British Lung Foundation offers advice to anyone living with or supporting someone with a lung condition. For more information call their helpline on 03000 030 555 or visit their website