Although we're in the height of summer, the NHS in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is getting ready for winter and making sure as many people as possible are protected against flu.
Last month, the government announced the most comprehensive flu programme ever, with more people eligible for the free NHS vaccine which will start to be delivered in September.
As plans are put in place to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people locally, the NHS is looking at how it may have to do things differently this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Paddy Hannigan, GP and Chair of NHS Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "Flu can be a nasty virus, especially for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
“That's why vaccination is so important to make sure that people don't end up in hospital, especially now with coronavirus. We want to protect you and protect NHS services through winter when we know more people do become ill with respiratory illnesses. There is no need to call your GP practice to book an appointment for a vaccination yet. If you are eligible, your GP will be in touch to let you know when, and what you need to do to get yours.
"In the past, GPs like me would see a lot of people in a short space of time in special flu clinics. But because of social distancing and having to vaccinate more people than before, we're going to have to do things differently.
"Some practices are looking at setting up special walk-through clinics where people will be constantly on the move, where appropriate they won't even sit down to keep the line moving. Others are using community centres to vaccinate people so surgeries can continue to care for those with the most need."
The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent CCGs want to hear from those who are eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine this year. People will be asked a few short questions about getting the vaccine, and how they think it could be delivered widely across the county. To let us know your views on the topic - please fill in this short survey. The survey closes on Wednesday 19th August.
Dr Hannigan added: "We're looking at how we can work with GP practices, as well as other local medical professionals to make sure as many people as possible get their flu vaccine this year. Getting views from local people will also help with that planning."
Those eligible for vaccination this year are:
- people who are on the shielded patient list and members of their household
- all school year groups up to year 7
- people aged 65 and over
- pregnant women
- those with pre-existing conditions including at-risk under-2s.
Later in the autumn, people aged 50 to 64 will also be invited to get the vaccination.
There is no need to call your GP practice to book an appointment for a vaccination yet. If you are eligible, your GP will be in touch to let you know when, and what you need to do to get yours.