Category Archives: BUCKS CCG News

Public
Pharmacy Opening Times for Christmas and New Year 2018/19 in Bucks

Please see below for details of which pharmacies will be open, and their operating hours, across the NHS Buckinghamshire CCG area during the Christmas and New Year period.

Where possible, please also plan ahead to make sure you get any repeat prescriptions ahead of the Christmas break.

Please note – pharmacy opening hours on Bank Holidays are voluntary and are, therefore, subject to change. There may be changes to normal pharmacy opening hours between Monday 24th December and Tuesday 1st January inclusive.

Patients are advised to check if pharmacies are open by telephone before making a journey.

Local pharmacy details can be found at www.nhs.uk under ‘More Services’.

And remember, you can also check our Health Help Now web service for more information on pharmacies near you, and other health services available in Buckinghamshire.

If you are still not sure what health service option to use, and it is not an emergency, call NHS 111 for advice.

You can also click here to view the pharmacy details below on an enlargeable document.

 

 

 

 

Public
‘Good’ CQC rating for Mandeville Practice – and now all Bucks GP practices

The Mandeville Practice in Aylesbury has been awarded a ‘good’ rating from the Care Quality Commission after an inspection in October, which described the scale of improvements it has made in such a short space of time as ‘outstanding’.

This means that now every GP practice in Buckinghamshire has been rated as ‘good’ or above by the CQC.

This latest report follows an inadequate rating at the Mandeville Practice’s last inspection in January, and represents a remarkable turnaround by the practice team. Among the points of praise were the ongoing strategy of the practice and the way services were being tailored to meet patients’ needs.

The practice was rated ‘good’ across each of five categories. This means all services are now considered safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

The report noted the practice has been through a “challenging three years”, with changes in service provider and personnel. Primary Care Management Solutions Limited (PCMS) took over the contract for GP services at the practice in April 2018 and has been working hard to transform services ever since.

The CQC described the new leadership team’s drive for improvements and the commitment of the wider practice team as an area of “outstanding practice”.

A statement from the practice said: “PCMS and the team at Mandeville are incredibly proud of what has been achieved in such a short period of time. We look forward to continuing the good work and making further improvements at the practice whilst continuing to improve the health outcomes for our patients. We are also extremely grateful for the support we have received from NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group and seek to continue our excellent working relationship in the future.”  

Dr Raj Bajwa, Clinical Chair of NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The team at the Mandeville Practice has worked incredibly hard over the last six months to attain this ‘good’ rating. This is an amazing achievement in a very short period of time and illustrates their determination to provide safe, high quality care for their patients.

“It is also fantastic news that every GP practice in Buckinghamshire now has a CQC rating of ‘good’ or above. It is great testament to the hard work of our GPs and practice staff who are so committed to delivering the best possible health outcomes for patients.”

The full CQC report can be read by clicking here.

Public
Would you like to get involved in planning healthcare in Buckinghamshire?

NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is asking for local people to submit their views on the CCG’s current operational plan and help shape future healthcare services in the county.

The plan is available to view here and views can be submitted online at www.letstalkhealthbucks.nhs.uk

Please submit any comments or suggestions by 2 December 2018.

Public
Primary care networks

Since the NHS was created in 1948, the population has grown and people are living longer. Many people are living with long term conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, or suffer with mental health issues and may need to access their local health services more often.

To meet these needs, practices have begun working together and with community, mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital and voluntary services in their local areas in primary care networks.

Primary care networks build on the core of current primary care services and enable greater provision of proactive, personalised, coordinated and more integrated health and social care. Clinicians describe this as a change from reactively providing appointments to proactively care for the people and communities they serve. Where emerging primary care networks are in place in parts of the country, there are clear benefits for patients and clinicians.

Watch a short animation that explains the concept of primary care networks (PCNs) and how this new way of working enables health and other services to work together to provide better access for patients.

For more information on primary care networks, please click here.

 

Public
Online counselling now available for children and young people in Buckinghamshire

Kooth is a new online counselling service supporting young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. The online service can help young people avoid the stigma sometimes associated with seeking help.

Oxford Health NHS FT, lead mental health provider in Buckinghamshire, Buckinghamshire County Council and Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group have commissioned XenZone, provider of online counselling services, to give children and young people access to professional mental health counsellors through its online Kooth service.

Eleanor Rowsell, clinical lead for children and adolescent mental health psychological services in Buckinghamshire at Oxford Health NHS FT, said: “We are excited to be able to offer this service to young people in Buckinghamshire. Initially it can be difficult to reach out to our services and Kooth is a great way to get support if they don’t feel ready contact us directly.”

Young people aged 11 to 19 register anonymously on the site, which gives them access to drop-in or booked online chats with British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy certified counsellors, psychotherapists and emotional wellbeing practitioners.

Young people are encouraged to identify goals and monitor progress with their counsellor, charting movement as progress is achieved. The Kooth site is accessible at any time, via any connected device, helping to eliminate the stigma often associated with asking for help.

Dr Sian Roberts, mental health and learning disability clinical director for Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We would encourage any young person who may be struggling with their emotional wellbeing or who has any mental health concerns to visit the Kooth website. There is lots of advice available, not to mention the opportunity to have an online conversation with a highly trained counsellor.”

Warren Whyte, cabinet member for children’s service for Buckinghamshire County Council, said: “We all know that the emotional health and well-being of our young people is a growing concern and Kooth offers a great way to support those in need. It is very easy to access, confidential and free of charge, and offers help across a range of areas.”

The Kooth site is accessible at any time, via any connected device, helping to eliminate the stigma often associated with asking for help. The online counselling team is available on Kooth between mid-day and 10pm on week days and from 6pm until 10pm at weekends.

They have access to moderated peer to peer support, forums, self-help materials, discussion groups and a mood journal, where they can record their thoughts and feelings. They are encouraged to identify goals and monitor progress with their counsellor, charting movement as progress is achieved. They can also read and contribute to the Kooth online magazine.

Public
If you are a patient at Chiltern House Medical Centre we need your views

If you are a patient registered at Chiltern House Medical Centre, High Wycombe, then we would like to hear your views on the future of the practice.

NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is working with patients, the staff at the practice and NHS England to develop plans for Chiltern House Medical Centre.

Anyone registered at the practice can complete a survey here https://www.letstalkhealthbucks.nhs.uk/consult.ti/CMHC/consultationHome

 Nicola Lester, Director of Transformation at the CCG, said: “We are keen to work with the patients at Chiltern House Medical Centre and use this opportunity to find out what patients would value and what the services could look like in the future.

 “We are hoping that as a result of feedback we receive, we will be able to really shape services to suit the needs of patients who use the practice.”

In July of this year, the GP partnership which held the contract to provide primary care medical services at Chiltern House Medical Centre ended. An interim contract was then awarded to Primary Care Management Solutions, to maintain services for registered patients at the practice for up to 12 months. We would reassure patients that this period will allow time for full and thorough planning process to take place before any future changes may be made.

For more information about Chiltern House Medical Centre and to complete the survey, please visit www.letstalkhealthbucks.nhs.uk

Public
Improved Access to GP Appointments – weekdays from 8am-8pm

A new and improved service to access GP appointments launched in Buckinghamshire on 1 October and is available to all patients registered with a Bucks GP. This service involves local GP practices working together to offer patients better access to appointments. It means that you can now book an appointment in a practice local to you:

  • Up until 8pm from Monday to Friday
  • Selected hours on a Saturday
  • 9am until 1pm on Sunday and Bank Holidays (at one of the three Improved Access Hubs located across the county)

Dr Rebecca Mallard-Smith, Clinical Director of Community Urgent Care, said: “This new service is an example of how we can all work together to improve care for our patients. For us to launch this new service, all GP practices have been working closely together to ensure that appointments are available between 8am and 8pm including other local surgeries to your normal surgery.

“This should mean that patients also have greater flexibility for routine, bookable appointments. Patients can receive the care they need, closer to home, at an agreed time preventing the need to use our urgent care facilities for GP care.

“It is however not a walk-in service and if you need urgent medical advice after 6.30pm or at a weekend please phone NHS 111 in the first instance who will be able to advise you and book an appointment  if necessary.”

Practices will be offering this ‘improved access’ service up until 8pm from Monday to Friday, and on selected hours on a Saturday (your registered practice can confirm which practices are open).

On Sundays and Bank Holiday weekends, additional appointments will be available from 9am until 1pm. These appointments can be booked through the practice you are registered with, and are being offered from three Improved Access Hubs located at:

High Wycombe Hospital: (located at the MIIU) Queen Alexander Road, High Wycombe, HP11 2TT

Stoke Mandeville Hospital: Corridor 5, Gate 2, Mandeville Road, Stoke Mandeville, HP21 8AL

Threeways Surgery: Pennylets Green, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, SL2 4AZ

Public
Statement on Primary Care Hub proposal for Wycombe

Following reports about proposals for a Primary Care Hub for the Wycombe area, Dr Raj Bajwa, Clinical Chair of Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group has issued this statement:

“We would like to reassure residents there are no plans to close any GP practices in Wycombe.

“Currently, we are working with a GP Practice that wishes to move onto the Wycombe site; this offers opportunities for Clinicians across the Minor Injury and Illness Unit, Hospital services and the GP practice to work even closer together for the benefit of our local population. We refer to this type of co-location of services as a ‘hub’.

“Clearly, once any decision is made, the practice would liaise with patients accordingly to keep them informed of any developments.

“Across the CCG we have high quality GP services delivered from small, medium and large practices; we see the benefits of supporting all such styles and sizes because it enables patients to choose their preferred service.”

Public
New animation explains the need for integrated care

Our health and care needs are changing, with more people living longer often with multiple long term conditions. This new animation, launched by NHS England, explains the challenges facing the health and care system and how partnerships are being formed between the NHS, local government and the third sector to integrate care and better meet our health and care needs now and in the future.

Public
Proposed new building for Berryfields Medical Centre and Meadowcroft Surgery

Plans for construction of a single new building to house both Berryfields Medical Centre and Meadowcroft Surgery are being proposed as part of a vision to improve access and offer more GP services for patients in north-west Aylesbury. This planned new building would hopefully be completed in two to three years, to help meet growing healthcare needs in the area.

The Berryfields Medical Centre has operated in temporary accommodation in Buckingham Park ever since it was founded, more than a decade ago. It was always planned for the practice to eventually move to the area of the Berryfields development. The Meadowcroft Surgery building in Jackson Road was built in 1991 and is now approximately half the size needed for the number of patients it serves. The site cannot be redeveloped while practice services keep running, and there is not enough space to extend it.

The proposal is for a new building in Berryfields. This would be at the roundabout intersection between Martin Dalby Way and Paradise Orchard. The site would have adequate car parking and would be accessible by bus and cycle routes. This site is 0.8 miles from the current Meadowcroft Surgery building and 1.5 miles from the existing Berryfields Medical Centre.

This proposed new building would house both practices; the two teams would work closely together but remain separate. They aim to provide a resilient, imaginative and efficient service, with increased facilities for patients. Existing patients would continue under the care of their current GP and practice teams.

The practices, and Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), are inviting patients to help with the planning ahead. They want to identify future service needs for the population and to explore ideas for a new building. Both surgeries will be scheduling public involvement events in the coming weeks, with dates to be confirmed shortly.

Dr Raj Bajwa, Clinical Chair of Buckinghamshire CCG, said“The building of permanent premises for Berryfields Medical Centre is a priority for the practice and for NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group. We recognise the future housing growth in the area requires a fit-for-purpose primary care facility to serve all the neighbouring communities.

“The CCG is supporting the collaboration of Berryfields and Meadowcroft practices in furthering their joint venture to design new premises, which, in addition to general practice services, would be able to offer space for other community services. This would contribute to meeting national and CCG strategy for offering increased out-of-hospital services and care closer to home.” 

Public
Closure of Dragon Cottage Surgery, Holmer Green

From 7th September, the surgery at Dragon Cottage in Holmer Green will be permanently closing.

If you attend this practice you do not need to do anything.

You will stay registered with Chiltern House Medical Centre and will be able to access all your usual GP services at Temple End, High Wycombe near Morrisons.

This unexpected closure has been out of our control and we have only recently been told that the lease is not being renewed.

In coming months, we will be seeking your views so that we can fully understand the health needs in the area and how best to address them.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) on 0800 328 5640 or by emailing scwcsu.palscomplaints@nhs.net

To view Frequently Asked Questions on this matter, please click here.

Public
Changes to ordering repeat prescriptions in Bucks

The way we order our repeat prescriptions for medicine in Buckinghamshire is changing.  From August onwards NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which buys your health services, is asking those patients who are able to do so, to order their repeat prescriptions directly from their GP practice – either online or in person.  This means that patients will be less likely to have unnecessary or out-of-date medicine in their homes, improving their own safety, and will also reduce costly medicine wastage.

People who may have problems doing this, for example those who are housebound who cannot order on line, or do not have a carer or representative that can order on their behalf, are exempt from this change; as are those using a Monitored Dosage System, patients who have a learning disability or those with dementia who do not have a carer or representative who can order on their behalf.

Dr Shona Lockie, Clinical Director for the Medicines Management team at NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said “We believe that patients are actually best placed to know when they need more medication and that most will be happy to order directly from their GP, either using the online systems or by dropping off the completed returns slip to their practice. Whilst we understand that any change in routine takes time to become the norm, we know that many people are already using online services for their shopping or banking and they will like the convenience of ordering their repeat prescriptions online. We hope people will prefer to use this method, as it puts more control in the hands of patients – they can see full details of the medications they are using, whilst also being able to book appointments and view their medical record.

“So please help your local NHS by ordering only the medicines needed for the month ahead. It’s a good rule of thumb to put your order in when you are down to a ten-day supply – that way you are highly unlikely to run out before getting your next batch. We would like to thank all patients for their cooperation with this.

Provision has been made so that people unable to order from their GPs can continue to have their repeats ordered by their pharmacist; and pharmacists can dispense medicines in a genuine emergency for those who need it.  All of this is detailed in the letter and leaflet on the specially set up web page www.buckinghamshireccg.nhs.uk/repeats and is being circulated at practices and pharmacies.

If you already order repeat prescriptions from your GP, these changes won’t affect you. Also, all prescriptions ordered will continue to be sent to your pharmacy of choice. Patients can still have medication delivered to their home by their pharmacy, where these arrangements already exist.

Repeat prescriptions can be ordered online from a link on your GP practice’s website – but you will have to register for GP online services and your practice will probably ask you to provide identification in person.  It’s a good idea to check with them first what they will need to see.  Once you are registered it’s easy to order your repeat prescriptions and you can also access more of your practice’s online services such as making appointments and viewing your medical record (where these services are available).

If you prefer to order in person, you can complete the request slip on the right hand side of your paper prescription and hand this in to your practice.

More information can be found at www.buckinghamshireccg.nhs.uk/repeats

Public
Pharmacy opening times – August Bank Holiday Monday (27 Aug)

Please see below for details of which pharmacies will be open, and their operating hours, across the NHS Buckinghamshire CCG area on the August Bank Holiday Monday (27 August).

Where possible, please also plan ahead to make sure you get any repeat prescriptions ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend.

Please note – pharmacy opening hours on Bank Holidays are voluntary and are, therefore, subject to change.

Patients are advised to check if pharmacies are open by telephone before making a journey.

Local pharmacy details can be found on the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk under ‘More Services’.

And remember, you can also check our Health Help Now web service for more information on pharmacies near you, and other health services available in Buckinghamshire.

If you are still not sure what health service option to use, and it is not an emergency, call NHS 111 for advice.

 

 

Public
Young adults urged to check they’ve had MMR vaccine before summer travel

Young people are encouraged to make sure they have had both doses of the MMR vaccine before going on holiday to Europe where there are large outbreaks of measles.

Cases of measles also continue to rise across England in unvaccinated people of this age.

The vaccine is available free to anyone who has not received both doses as a child. It protects against measles, mumps and rubella – all of which can be very serious diseases and are highly infectious.

While vaccine uptake levels in the UK in young children are currently very high, coverage levels dipped to a low of 80% in 2003. This means that there are significant numbers of unprotected teenagers and young adults who could catch measles both in England, particularly in environments of close mixing such as summer festivals and when they travel abroad for the summer holidays.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to serious complications and can be fatal in very rare cases so getting protected by taking up the offer of vaccination is crucial.

Between 1 January 2018 and 31 May 2018 there have been 587 laboratory confirmed measles cases in England. Cases were reported in most areas with London (213), the South East (128), West Midlands (81), South West (62), and Yorkshire and Humberside (53) reporting the most cases (based on provisional figures).

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that to prevent outbreaks of disease, 95% of people need to have received the MMR vaccine.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said: “In the early 2000’s there was a fall in MMR vaccination coverage in children and as a consequence we are now seeing measles cases in young adults. Measles can be more serious in adults with a higher likelihood of hospitalisation and complications arising.

“Measles is circulating in England and the rest of Europe. We often think about what travel-related vaccines we might need before going on holiday, but it’s also important to check that we are up to date with routine vaccinations like MMR.

“If you are unsure if you have had two doses of MMR call your GP practice to check and catch up if needed.”

Parents are also urged to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children at 1 year of age and as a pre-school booster at 3 years and 4 months of age.

Public
Buckinghamshire CCG and Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust joint AGM and Open Day – 28 July

Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust (BHT) and are celebrating the NHS’s 70th birthday by inviting the public, staff, friends and family to an open day festival and joint annual general meeting (AGM) at Stoke Mandeville Hospital on Saturday, 28 July, from 11am-3pm.

The open day will let people go behind the scenes at the hospital and enjoy live entertainment, food and free fun activities for the whole family.

A central health fair will feature information stands by many of the Trust’s clinical departments as well as other health and care partners, such as Healthy Minds Bucks, giving the public a closer look at what services are available to them locally. There will be mini-health checks available alongside information on how people can keep themselves and their families fit and healthy.

Visitors will be able to go behind the scenes by booking onto tours, including tours of the mortuary and day surgery at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. There will also be a number of activities for children including a teddy bear trail through the hospital, with prizes to be won. Festivalgoers can also enjoy a variety of performers including local band OMJ who will be playing jazz through ages, transporting people from the 1940s through the past 7 decades to the present.

The joint AGM is planned to run from 11.45am to around 12.30pm. This is also open to the public who will be able to hear about BHT and the CCG’s work over the last year.

For more details please go to: www.buckshealthcare.nhs.uk/BucksNHS70

Public
Improved access to your GP? Please let us know your views

NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group is improving access for patients who need to book routine appointments with their doctor.

From October 2018, some surgeries in the county will be offering extra appointments. Although it will not be practical to offer these at every surgery, we will ensure they are available in your local area.

Dr Rebecca Mallard-Smith, Clinical Director for Unplanned Community Care, said: ”We are working to improve routine access to general practice and the wider primary and community services  within Buckinghamshire”

“We would like to adapt this service so as to offer greater choice for patients, with fast, responsive and high quality care tailored to individual needs.

“We believe that by helping people to make informed lifestyle choices we can work with patients to maintain their health and wellbeing so that they can lead the most independent and fulfilling lives possible.

“As part of these improvements, we would like to offer additional appointments at local GP practices but we would like to know what we need to consider when deciding where and when these appointments should be.”

For us to be able to improve the access patients have to General Practice we would like to hear the views of the public and patients. Please let us know what you think by 30 June by completing our short survey – click here to take part.

 

 

Public
Learning Disability Week – Access All Areas

 

An estimated 1,200 people with a learning disability die from preventable illness every year. On average women with a learning disability die 18 years sooner, and men with a learning disability die 14 years sooner than the general population in England.  That’s why this Learning Disability week (18-24 June) events are happening across the country to focus on improving healthcare for people with a learning disability.

As part of the county’s ‘Transforming Care Partnership’ group; GP’s, the County Council, Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and many other health and social care professionals in Buckinghamshire are backing Learning Disability Week by encouraging anyone with a learning disability or autism to register with their GP for an Annual Health Check.

Dr Sian Roberts, Mental Health and Learning Disability Clinical Director, said: “Annual Health checks are one way of making sure that people with a learning disability stay as healthy as possible. The checks can pick up early signs of a problem, and even prevent problems arising in the first place. It’s easy to arrange just contact your surgery and ask how you can make an appointment for this important health check.

“We know that there are over 6,000 people in Buckinghamshire that have a learning disability, yet around only 2,000 are accessing services. So if you, or someone you know has a learning disability – even if you are not already receiving health or social care – please make sure you stay that way by looking after your health and registering for a FREE Annual Health Check.”

The Transforming Health Partnership Group have arranged their own event for later in the year called [Access All Areas], to help address health inequalities in the county. Access All Areas is FREE to attend and will take place on Thursday 13 September 10.30am-4pm at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Aylesbury. With over 30 health, fitness, social  care and wellbeing exhibitors and plenty of hands on demonstrations the event is a must for anyone with a learning disability. Register your interest as a group or individual and get tickets by emailing communications@buckscc.gov.uk

Lin Hazell, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “People with a learning disability get worse healthcare than people without. Every single year hundreds of people with a learning disability die when their death could have been avoided if they had got good healthcare.

“Access All Areas is a chance for anyone with a learning disability or autism, their carers, family and support workers to find out exactly what is on offer to keep them fit and healthy. We want to encourage them all to attend, especially those 4,000 people who do not seem to be accessing services. Save the date [September 13], coming to Access All Areas could save a life.”

For an easy read guide to getting a health check, please click here.

Public
New Bucks film shows value of creativity for people affected by dementia

A new film has been launched in Buckinghamshire to show how people affected by dementia can use creative pursuits and activity to help improve their quality of life.

The locally made film, entitled ‘I Am Still Me’, forms part of ongoing work by NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Buckinghamshire County Council to raise awareness of the condition. It focuses on the importance of supporting people living with dementia and their carers by helping them find new ways to communicate and enjoy memories through creative and social activities. These can include singing groups, artistic activities or watching performances. It also considers the difficulties experienced by carers of people living with dementia, and how vital it is that they find lifelines to relieve the pressure on them.

Click here to view I Am Still Me .

A number of local groups and activities which people can get involved with are featured over the course of the film.

It was produced by Dr Mahuya Kanjilal, who has extensive experience of working on films highlighting health and social care issues as they impact the BME community. The project was also supported by NHS England South Central.

The film was screened at a special event earlier this year, followed by a Q&A session with a panel of key members of the project, including GP Dr Sian Roberts, who gave advice and insight into the challenges surrounding dementia and caring for someone with the condition.

Dr Roberts, Mental Health and Learning Disability Clinical Director for Buckinghamshire CCG, said: “This film aims to show that people can still lead meaningful and fulfilled lives when they live with dementia, and activities like the ones highlighted can make such a positive difference to them.

“As hard as this condition may be to accept, life does not have to stop with the onset of dementia – there are still many ways to enjoy time with your loved ones and create warm new memories. And we must always remember how important it is for the carers of people with dementia to have the kind of support that these creative groups can offer. They really can serve as an invaluable lifeline and we hope people will watch this film and be inspired to explore them further.”

Two other films focusing on dementia were launched in Bucks last year:

Public
How to handle hay fever – advice from Buckinghamshire CCG

Dr Shona Lockie is a GP at Water Meadow Surgery in Chesham and Clinical Director for the Medicines Management Team at NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

Every year it feels like it might be getting worse, as too many of us sneeze and sniff our way toward the summer months…

So, what is hay fever? It’s a common condition in the UK, affecting one in five, caused when the body overreacts to allergens, like pollen, from grass or flowers. It usually hits in the spring and early summer (now is a prime time), leaving people with symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, runny or blocked noses. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person.

This year the situation is worse than usual, thanks to the so-called ‘pollen bomb’ – a simultaneous release of pollen from various sources, including birch, plane and oak trees, which seems to have been delayed because of the erratic weather we’ve had.

The good news is, in most cases there is no need to visit your GP as your pharmacist has a range of effective treatments to recommend. Antihistamine tablets can ease eye or nasal symptoms; eye drops can also help. Over-the-counter steroid sprays like beclomethasone and fluticasone can treat all symptoms (but are best started a month before hay fever season begins). If you are worried about the cost, ask about ‘own brand’ labels, which may be cheaper than branded products but are still effective.

Some people must take extra care with hay fever if they have a condition affecting their breathing, like asthma for example, or Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease (COPD). Make sure you always have your reliever inhaler (usually blue) handy for emergencies, and if you also have a preventer inhaler, please use that as prescribed. If you experience breathlessness which your inhalers can’t relieve easily, contact your GP.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help you through hay fever season:

DO:

  • Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen from your eyes.
  • Shower and change clothes after going outside to wash pollen off.
  • Stay inside when the pollen count gets bad, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • Keep windows and doors shut where possible.
  • Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth.
  • Keep car windows shut and get a pollen filter for the air vents.

DON’T:

  • Cut grass or walk on grass.
  • Smoke or be near it – it worsens symptoms.
  • Spend too long outside.
  • Let pets carry pollen indoors
  • Dry clothes outside
  • Keep fresh flowers in the house.