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This section contains blogs from some of the CCG members and staff.

 

Christmas message
from Dr Linda Collie

Linda Collie

Hello everyone, 

It’s that time of year as the festive season beckons when, however busy you are, there’s always a million and one other things that need to be done. 

Christmas seems to start earlier every year yet usually, for me at least, there seems to be less time to do more. 

But I did stop to think for a moment when reading words from the Chief Nursing Officer for NHS England, Professor Jane Cummings, about what she called the “lethal” combination of loneliness and cold weather this winter. 

Prof Cummings said that loneliness and isolation pose a threat to physical and mental health for people of all ages and that this can have a real impact on already stretched NHS services, especially during winter when cold weather also poses a threat to many vulnerable groups. 

And she is right…and potentially dead right. 

However busy you may be over the festive season, can I please ask each and every one of you to spare a thought for those people who may be on their own at Christmas – and not only spare a thought for them but actually do something about it. 

The NHS’s Stay Well This Winter campaign aims to promote good health and protect vulnerable people over the winter months. 

Evidence shows that being alone and feeling isolated increases the risk of premature death by around a third and is as damaging to our health as not exercising.  

A third of people who report loneliness have long-term health conditions which make them more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather. 

Heart attacks increase almost immediately after a cold weather snap and account for 40% of excess winter deaths.  Hospitals also see a rise in the admission of stroke patients five days after the cold weather begins, while admissions for respiratory problems go up 12 days after the temperature drops.  

GPs city-wide will tell you that they see patients who have come in mainly because they are lonely. You may have seen the excellent, thought-provoking adverts currently on television.  

The number of hospital admissions is also linked to colder weather circulating viral infections, including flu. Older people who may be frail, or who have existing health conditions, are particularly at risk. Half of people aged 75 and over live alone, around two million people, and many say they go days or even weeks with no social interaction at all. 

Research also suggests lonely people have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia and are more prone to depression, whilst a third of people with dementia said they had lost contact with friends.   

People of all ages can be affected by loneliness, for example, a third of new mums claim to be lonely and eight out of ten carers have felt lonely or isolated looking after loved-ones. 

As Prof Cummings says “loneliness has a devastating and life-threatening impact on people of all ages. For vulnerable groups, social isolation combined with the health dangers of colder weather, is a lethal combination.” 

NHS staff see first-hand the consequences of loneliness, from dealing with life-threatening and serious illness to offering a lifeline to those to simply wanting a see a friendly face. We can all take steps to alleviate loneliness by looking out for family, friends and neighbours. These simple acts of companionship could be life-saving. 

So please, do look out, as far as you can, not only for relatives but also for your elderly neighbours who live alone this Christmas. A little kindness can go a long way. 

And, on behalf of my colleague GPs at NHS Portsmouth CCG, may I also wish all of you everything you wish yourselves over Christmas and the New Year. 

Stay warm. Stay safe. Stay well. And have a very happy and a healthy time.

Dr Linda Collie 

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