WITH the cold winter nights now drawing in, residents are being encouraged to take a number of steps to stay well over the winter period.
Winter Watch, the Council’s annual scheme to provide support and information over the colder months is now underway. The scheme focuses on supporting the most at-risk groups, including those with disabilities, older people, low-income families, and those with serious illnesses. They assist with damp proofing properties, providing emergency heating and bedding, providing emergency energy payments, and carrying out home energy checks.
There is more information available about Winter Watch and how they can help by calling 0118 937 3747, or visiting www.reading.gov.uk/winterwatch.
There is also a reminder for the most vulnerable groups to ensure that they have received their free flu vaccine. This is available to those with long-term underlying medical conditions, older people, carers of elderly and disabled people, and pregnant women – the groups most likely to suffer from serious complications as a result of the flu. The free vaccine is available at most GP surgeries in the area, and in most local pharmacies.
Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Member for Health, said:
“Despite the huge cuts to our funding from government we’ve worked hard as a council to continue our Winter Watch scheme. More people die in winter than the rest of the year due to the effects of the cold. Older people are at particular risk of health problems, as are children and people with disabilities or long term illnesses.
“If anyone feels they are struggling to keep warm or indeed know any neighbours who they think may need help, then please contact the Council to find out more about how the Winter Watch scheme can help.
“Additionally, if you are eligible for the flu vaccination, don’t put it off – get it now. Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect yourself from this unpleasant and potentially deadly illness.”
NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign is also recommending a number of other steps to take to ward off the most common illnesses this winter including:
- Keep yourself warm – if you can, heat your home to at least 18 degrees C (65F);
- Speak to your pharmacist as soon as you start to feel unwell, even if it is just a cold or cough;
- Ensure you have medicine in the home to deal with common ailments like coughs, colds and upset stomachs.
For useful information on staying well, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell or www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth.
The NHS non-emergency number 111 is available to contact for out of hours advice. It’s fast, easy and free to speak to a highly trained adviser, supported by healthcare professionals. They will ask a series of questions to assess symptoms and immediately direct people to the best medical care.
Notes to Editors
Just over 10 per cent of homes in Reading have at least one member affected by a long term illness or disability and an estimated 6,695 households in Reading – almost 11 per cent – are considered ‘fuel poor’ and will struggle to afford the cost of heating their homes.
The groups being offered the free flu vaccine are:
- pregnant women;
- those aged 65 or over;
- carers of elderly or disabled people;
- people who have an underlying health condition such as diabetes, chronic respiratory, heart or kidney diseases, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, weakened immune systems, liver disease and those recovering from strokes.
Children aged 2, 3 or 4 can be vaccinated via a painless nasal flu vaccine available at their general practice and this can usually be done by seeing the practice nurse.
Winter Watch Case Studies
Winter Watch Case study 1
Winter Watch visited a vulnerable 55 year old man living in a one bedroom flat in south Reading. Due to financial difficulties he was unable to put any money on his electric meter. There was a large debt on the meter that had built up over a number of months. The team contacted the man’s electric company and arranged for the debt to be paid off in a manageable way.
Winter Watch also provided the man with a new electric key and a one off credit payment so he finally had heating in his flat. The team also applied for the Warm Homes discount payment to be put on his meter and added him to his energy supplier’s priority list. Winter Watch will continue to visit and support him in future.
Winter Watch Case study 2
An elderly resident living in a one bedroom bungalow in Tilehurst was concerned she wouldn’t be able to afford to pay her energy bills. She also found it difficult to provide meter readings to her supplier, which had resulted in higher estimated bills.
Winter Watch reviewed her last 6 month’s bills and programmed her boiler to keep the property at a comfortable temperature. She was added to her energy company’s priority list for extra support, and the team provided the company with a meter reading. A smart meter was then installed to provide accurate meter readings to the energy company. The resident can now see exactly how much energy she uses and can manage her finances accordingly.