The winter months can be challenging for many Surrey residents, and add more pressure to NHS services during periods of extreme weather. Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially for those aged 65 and over, or if you have a long-term health condition. Even for those in full health, winter can bring with it coughs, colds and flu bugs.
Stay healthy and well this winter and be prepared using the advice below. Seek help when needed using the most appropriate local NHS services listed below, and stock your medicine cabinet with the essentials to keep you and your family well this season.
The latest information about the Coronavirus Vaccination Programme in Surrey Heartlands is available on this website.
There is also a range of very helpful resources to support you during winter on the Healthy Surrey website.
On this page you will find information on:
- Accessing NHS Services
- Essential Winter Vaccines
- Flu vaccine FAQs
- Pharmacy advice
- NHS 111
- CYP Havens
- What you should keep in your medicine cabinet
- Checking in on the vulnerable
- Keeping your house warm
- Local support across Surrey
If you have a symptom that could be cancer (such as unexplained blood that doesn’t come from an obvious injury, an unexplained lump, weight loss which feels significant to you or an unexplained pain that doesn’t go away) a maternity concern, or a routine appointment, the NHS is here to help you and can see you safely.
If you have a routine appointment, make sure you keep it, unless recommended otherwise by your doctor. If you are told to go to hospital for a routine appointment, then the NHS has measures in place to make sure that it safe for you to do so.
No staff who have COVID-19 symptoms or come into contact with someone with symptoms are allowed to work in the hospital meaning the NHS can see you in a safe environment.
If you are pregnant, it is crucial that you still attend your antenatal appointments and continue to seek advice from your midwife or maternity team to ensure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. If you are worried about your health or the health of your unborn baby, please do not hesitate to contact your midwife or maternity team.
Women of a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background may be at higher risk of complications of coronavirus. Maternity services have been asked to take extra precautions to keep women at greatest risk safe and everyone should seek advice without delay if they are concerned about their or their baby’s health.
Midwives have worked hard to make sure you still have a personal and safe maternity experience during this time, but some services will need to adapt. This could mean having telephone or video consultations or attending your antenatal appointments in a different setting. Your midwife will have more details about what is happening in your area.
If you’ve had unexplained blood that doesn’t come from an obvious injury (such as blood in your poo or pee), an unexplained lump, weight loss which feels significant to you or an unexplained pain that lasts three weeks or more, it could be a sign of cancer. It’s probably nothing serious, but finding cancer early makes it more treatable, so just speak to your GP.
The NHS is gearing up to deliver the safe and effective annual flu vaccination programme from autumn as it’s the best protection against flu and its complications.
Flu and COVID-19 can make some people seriously ill and it’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine if you're eligible to, particularly as it is expected that this will be the first winter when COVID-19 will co-circulate alongside flu (the seasonal influenza virus).
First dose vaccinations for young people aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, please visit GOV.UK for COVID-19 resources for children and young people.
For the 2021 COVID-19 booster vaccine programme individuals who received vaccination in Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme (priority groups 1 to 9) should be offered a third dose COVID-19 booster vaccine.
- those living in residential care homes for older adults
- all adults aged 50 years or over
- frontline health and social care workers
- all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 (as set out in the green book), and adult carers
- adult household contacts (aged 16 or over) of immunosuppressed individuals
JCVI advice is that the Covid-19 booster can be given together, at the same time as the flu vaccine.
Discover detailed information, including the latest Covid-19 FAQs, on the Covid19 vaccination programme web page.
The flu vaccine is free for older people, pregnant women, and those with certain underlying medical conditions.
The expanded influenza vaccination programme that we had last year, will continue this year (2021 to 2022). This means that the offer for 50 to 64 year olds will continue to protect this age group.
In addition, this year’s programme has been extended to 4 additional cohorts in secondary school so that all those from years 7 to year 11 will be offered the vaccination.
Therefore, those eligible for the free flu vaccination on the NHS this year (2021 to 2022) are:
- all children aged 2 to 15 (but not 16 years or older) on 31 August 2021
- those aged 6 months to under 50 years in clinical risk groups
- pregnant women
- those aged 50 years and over
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- carers (unpaid carers can get a Surrey Carers' Flu Jab Voucher to prove their eligibility for a free vaccine)
- close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- frontline health and social care staff employed by:
- a registered residential care or nursing home
- registered domiciliary care provider
- a voluntary managed hospice provider
- Direct Payment (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants.
Children aged 2 and 3 will continue to be offered the quick and easy nasal spray through their GP and all school aged children will be offered it in school unless they have an underlying health condition. An alternative flu vaccine, in the form of an injection, will again be available this year for children whose parents decline the flu nasal spray due to its porcine gelatine content.
Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours. To reduce the risk of spreading flu wash your hands often with warm water and soap, use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze and bin used tissues as quickly as possible.
Please keep a look out on your GP practice website for more information or visit the NHS website.
Get you Surrey Carers’ Flu Jab Voucher
If you are a carer looking after someone who is elderly or disabled, you can ask for a flu jab at your GP practice or take a Surrey Carers’ Flu Jab Voucher to your nearest participating community pharmacy. The vouchers provide the assurance that you are known to carers services here in Surrey and are therefore entitled to a free vaccination.
Find out more about the Surrey Carers’ Flu Voucher at Action for Carers Surrey: www.actionforcarers.org.uk/flu
Protecting yourself against flu
The flu vaccination : who should have it and why information on GOV.UK explains how you can help protect yourself and your children against flu this coming winter, and why it’s very important that people who are at increased risk from flu have their free vaccination every year.
It is also available as a leaflet.
Protecting your child against flu
Discover flu vaccination for children: leaflets and posters for parents and carers of preschool and primary school-aged children and young people in years 7 to 11.
Protect yourself against flu – information for parents and carers of preschool and primary school-aged children
This leaflet is available in:
English, English large print, Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Chinese, Estonian, Farsi, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Latvian, Lithuanian, Panjabi, Polish, Romanian, Romany, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Twi, Ukrainian, Urdu and Yiddish.
A Braille version of this leaflet is available to order.
Protect yourself from flu - easy read leaflet for people with a learning disability
This leaflet is aimed at people who have, or care for someone with a learning disability. You'll find this leaflet and other flu vaccination easy read resources on the GOV.UK website.
Films about the importance of the flu vaccination for people with a learning disability:
- Click here to watch a short film that covers why it is important, who is eligible for a free vaccine, where you can get the vaccine and reasonable adjustments.
- Click here to watch a short film featuring Registered Learning Disability nurse Becky.
Films about the importance of the flu vaccination for carers of people with a learning disability:
- Click here to watch a short film for carers.
- Click here to watch a short film featuring Registered Learning Disability nurse Becky - for carers
Flu messages in Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, and Pashto:
Thank you to Oxfordshire CCG and the faith and community leaders in Oxford who produced these videos encouraging communities to get vaccinated:
Click here to listen in Urdu
Click here to listen in Punjabi
Click here to listen in Arabic
Click here to listen in Pashto
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) factsheet - Why it is essential to get vaccinated against flu
Operation Vaccination is a campaign to increase awareness in Muslim communities about the importance of getting a flu vaccination this winter 2020-21. The MCB have put together a handy fact sheet why it is essential to get vaccinated against flu which gives answers to frequently asked questions.
Flu FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Where can I get my free flu jab?
If you're eligible for a free flu vaccination, you can have it at:
- Your GP surgery
- A local pharmacy offering the service
- Your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women
It is best to have the flu vaccination in the autumn or early winter before any outbreaks of flu. Remember that you need it every year, so don’t assume you are protected because you had one last year.
Check NHS.UK to find out if you are eligible and for answers to common flu questions.
What is flu?
Flu is an unpleasant disease that spreads quickly and easily through coughing and sneezing. Flu can also give you headaches, a sore throat, fever, chills, and muscle and joint aches. Those people who are at risk, either because of their age or medical conditions, may develop complications such as chest infections and pneumonia.
Why get the vaccine?
The vaccine provides the best available protection against flu. It is not 100% effective but it will protect a significant number of people and reduce the severity of flu if you get it. It could also help your relatives or carers because you will not be passing the disease to them.
Will I get any side effects from the flu vaccine?
The most common side effects from the flu vaccine can be a slight temperature or your arm may feel a little sore where you had the injection. Other side effects are rare.
Can I have the flu vaccine if I’m pregnant?
Yes, all pregnant women are recommended to receive the flu vaccine. There is evidence that suggests pregnant women are at increased risk from complications if they contract flu, the flu vaccine is the best protection against this.
I’m pregnant; will the flu jab affect my baby?
It's safe to have at any stage of pregnancy, including in the first trimester and right up to the expected due date. It helps protect the mother-to-be and newborn baby from catching flu.
I had the flu vaccination last year. Do I need to have it again?
Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year.
Who is eligible to get a flu vaccine?
• all children aged 2 to 15 (but not 16 years or older) on 31 August 2021
• those aged 6 months to under 50 years in clinical risk groups
• pregnant women
• those aged 50 years and over
• those in long-stay residential care homes
• close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
• frontline health and social care staff employed by:
o a registered residential care or nursing home
o registered domiciliary care provider or a voluntary managed hospice provider
o Direct Payment (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants.
I am not eligible for a free flu vaccine; can I still get a flu vaccine?
Yes of course! If you would like to have a flu vaccine you can pay to have one at your local pharmacy.
I’ve heard that the vaccination can give you flu. Is that true?
No. The flu vaccine that is given to adults is made from dead flu virus and cannot cause the infection. The flu vaccine that will be given to most children is a live vaccine, but the viruses in it have been weakened so they can not cause flu. You may get some side effects after the vaccination but these are quite mild like a slightly raised temperature or aching muscles for a couple of days or an ache in the arm where the injection was given. Other reactions are very rare.
When can I get the vaccine?
The vaccine is available from September and if you are eligible for a free flu vaccination either your surgery will contact you or you can book to have the vaccination in a pharmacy.
Will the flu vaccine protect me against Covid-19?
Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against Covid-19, however, it can help keep you safe from getting the flu, which in turn will help you stay healthy and well.
Do I still need to get my flu jab if I’ve had both of my COVID-19 vaccines?
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu, and vice versa. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both.
I’ve recently had COVID-19, can I still have my flu vaccine?
If you’ve had COVID-19, it’s still safe to have the flu vaccine. It will still be effective at helping to prevent flu.
Can I have my flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster in the same appointment?
Yes, if you are eligible to receive both vaccines you may therefore be offered both jabs in the same appointment. However, it is important that you do not delay receiving either vaccine if you’re unable to get them at the same time. It is vital that you are fully protected as soon as possible.
I think I have coronavirus symptoms – should I still come in for a vaccination?
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
• A new continuous cough
• A high temperature
• A loss of taste and/or smell
If you have any of these symptoms, then do not attend your flu vaccination appointment. This can be rescheduled.
If you have these symptoms you need to self-isolate and book in for a coronavirus test. You can do this by calling 119 or visiting NHS.uk. You can also order a home--testing kit.
How long will the vaccine protect me for?
The flu vaccine will provide protection for you for the upcoming flu season. People eligible for flu vaccination should have the vaccine each year.
How long does it take for the vaccine to become effective?
It takes between 10 and 14 days for your immune system to respond fully after you have had the flu vaccine.
I had the vaccination last year, do I need it this year?
Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this winter may be different from last winter.
When is the best time to get the vaccination?
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, before flu starts circulating. But even if it's later, it's always worth getting vaccinated.
Do I need to wear a face covering or mask when I get the vaccination?
Yes, it is likely that you will need to have a mask on when you have your vaccine. Your GP practice will be able to advise when you book.
Are children offered a nasal spray vaccination?
Yes. Children aged 2 and 3 (DOB range 01/09/2017-31/08/2019) will be given the vaccination at their GP surgery, usually by the practice nurse.
Children who are 4 years old are also eligible for flu vaccination provided they were 3 on 31 August 2021. These children should be offered the vaccination at their GP surgery.
I’ve already had the flu this autumn so I don’t need the vaccination
It’s still important to get your flu vaccine even if you have had flu this autumn. It can help protect you from getting it again.
Can flu be treated with antibiotics?
No unfortunately when you have flu, antibiotics will not help you feel better.
I am taking antibiotics, can I have the vaccine?
Yes, it's fine to have the flu vaccine while you're taking a course of antibiotics, provided you're not ill with a high temperature.
Help us help you by speaking with your local pharmacy team about minor health concerns before they get worse. They can help with clinical advice for all sorts of illnesses there and then, and if your symptoms suggest it's something more serious, they have the right training to ensure you get the help you need. It may also save you lots of time by receiving advice and treatment on the spot, without the need to go to your GP or A&E.
Get help early, if you are feeling unwell, don't wait, go to your nearest pharmacy.
Why visit the pharmacy?
Pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals with the clinical know-how to give you the help you need. They can assess your minor illness and recommend the right treatment, whether it's over the counter medicines, a few days rest or a bit of reassurance.
What can pharmacists help with?
They are the right people to see for minor health concerns such as:
- Sore throats
- Coughs, colds and flu
- Tummy troubles
- Aches and pains
- Red eyes
- Sleeping problems
- Athlete's foot
- Mouth ulcers
- Constipation and diarrhoea
You can talk to the pharmacist or pharmacy technician in your local pharmacy. Most people live within easy reach of one, and with many now offering longer open hours, it's easier to get the help and advice you need, without having to book an appointment.
Pharmacists and their teams are an essential part of the NHS and need your help and support during the coronavirus pandemic.
Always treat staff with respect, they are doing their best to provide you with the medicines and advice you need.
Please remember to wash your hands regularly and to wear a face covering when visiting your local pharmacy.
Think you need medical help right now? Go straight to NHS 111, which is available on the phone and online. NHS 111 online is conveniently accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
NHS 111 is there for when you need medical help fast but it is not a life threatening emergency.
How NHS 111 works:
You will be asked questions about your symptoms on the website or by speaking to a trained adviser on the phone. Depending on the situation, you will then:
- Find out what local services can help you
- Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP
- Get a face to face appointment if you need one
- Be told how to get any medicine you may need
- Get self-care advice
Be booked a timed slot in walk-in centres and emergency departments if that's where you need to be
In cases of emergencies please dial 999.
This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
The virtual CYP Havens offer a safe way for 10-18 year olds to talk about their worries & mental health in a confidential, friendly & supportive environment.
For more information about the CYP Havens, please visit the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust website
You can call them on 01483 519436 Mondays to Fridays 4pm-8.30pm and on Saturdays & Sundays 12pm-6pm.
Most common winter ailments, such as a cold, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or earache, can't be treated with antibiotics.
The best thing to do is:
What should I keep in my medicine cabinet at home?
Medicine or first aid
|What it's used for|
Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
|Effective at relieving most minor aches and pains such as headaches period pain, inflammation in arthritis and sprains|
Oral rehydration solution
|Fever, diarrhoea and vomiting make us lose water and essential minerals, and can lead to dehydration. If you have these symptoms and can't continue your normal diet, oral rehydration salts can help to restore your body's natural balance of minerals and fluid and relieve discomfort and tiredness. They don't fight the underlying cause of your illness, such as a virus or bacteria.|
|Antacids (comes in chewable tablets, or tablets that dissolve in water, or in liquid form)||We normally over indulge during the festive period and this can bring stomach ache, heartburn or trapped wind. A simple antacid will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief.|
First aid kit:
These are some of the main items that should be in your first aid kit. If you have small children - you should keep a thermometer and children's paracetamol handy, and take with you if you take trips or breaks away.
If you have any queries, your local pharmacist can advise you further on which medicines you should have in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.
Make sure you have repeat prescriptions
If you or someone your care for requires medicines regularly, make sure you order and collect repeat prescriptions in good time to ensure you or your family have enough medicine to last over the festive period and bank holidays.
Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:
Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:
Action Surrey provide information and advice on how to keep a home warm and any grants that may be available for replacement boilers and insulation.
Age UK Surrey provide information to help people stay safe, warm and well in the winter. This includes money saving tips and further advice on benefits and grants, advocacy and counselling.