Local health update.

Mix Mornings with Nick Hazell

Our health correspondent Alan Bellinger joins us to talk about flu and covid vaccinations, who can get them and why they are important, and questions for our local health leaders. We also hear how many of us who think we are allergic to penicillin probably aren’t and are risking infections as a result, plus a local questionnaire about sexual health.



Flu Jabs – the season is well under way If you remember back to last year the flu season was pretty bad (if you didn’t get it you were either vaccinated or lucky!). So who is eligible? Well there’s a big change this year; those between 50 and 65, who have been offered the jab in the past, aren’t in the list this year.

Here’s the eligibility list:

  • People aged 65 years and over
  • People aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
  • Those in long-stay residential care homes
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • Close contacts of people with low immunity
  • Carers in receipt of carer’s allowance,
  • Pregnant women
  • Children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
  • School children (from Reception to Year 6 Year 11)

As usual you have two options – your Surgery or a Chemist. For Surgeries – they will contact you and give you the appointment options; for a Pharmacy, go to https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/prescriptions-and-pharmacies/pharmacy-nhs-flu-vaccine-service/


Covid Jabs – I am getting really concerned about the Covid Jabs this Autumn; Vaccine Hesitancy is definitely on the rise in St Albans. So here’s my message ………. Get this jab; if you’ve got away with it so far you’ve been lucky and don’t bank on that luck this year. And if you have had Covid in the past, remember those antibodies that you built up don’t last long!


Here’s the eligibility list:

  • People aged 65 years and over
  • People aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
  • Care home residents
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • Those aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals
  • Carers

Again, your Surgery will contact you and give you a link to their appointments system or you can go to a Pharmacy – to find one near you go to the online booking service at https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/covid-19-services/covid-19-vaccination-services/book-covid-19-vaccination/ or call 119.


Questions for the Board – let’s start with a quick update about how our local Health Services are commissioned. All of our local Surgeries, Pharmacists and Hospitals come under the Herts & West Essex Integrated Care Board – “the ICB”. In the last two months, the ICB has established a “Patients Forum” and tasked the Forum to ensure that the Board hears the patient voice. And, guess what, I am the chair of that Forum!!! And we’re allowed to ask 4 questions at the Board Meeting. Here’s what I asked the Board last week:

The waiting list

“We hear constant stories of patients’ elective surgery being re-scheduled at the last minute and these experiences are having a significant social and mental health impact as well the consequences for their own health and wellbeing. Is everything possible being done to ensure that the most in need are supported in “waiting well” and can we be assured that decisions are being made to prioritise those most in need?”


Access to GP Surgeries

“Is the ICB fully on track to deliver ‘Modern General Practice Access’ and tackle the ‘8 am rush’ in line with the ‘NHS Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care’, and how will success be measured?”

This is how the Access Requirements have been defined:

  • see all patients by providing inclusive, straightforward online and telephone access
  • prioritise and allocate need safely and equitably (including continuity of care)
  • make best use of other primary care services and the multi-professional team
  • understand all patient needs through structured information gathering
  • improve the efficiency of processes and reduce duplication
  • understand all patient needs through structured information gathering.


Technology Adoption and Digital Exclusion

“The Patient Engagement Forum (“PEF”) fully supports the move to maximise the use of digital technology and AI, and its adoption; but the PEF recognises that not everyone is “tech savvy” and requests assurance that everything is being done to minimise the probability of digital exclusion.”


The probability of the Letby Case happening in our area

“Patients have been horrified by the Letby case and families of pregnant mothers in HWE are asking the question: what is the probability of that happening in our area?”

Do you agree with these questions? What would you like me to ask about at the next meeting on 28th November

Penicillin – Have you ever been asked “are you allergic to penicillin?” I have, and I must admit I had a really bad bout of Diarrhea to Flucloxacillin some 50 years ago; so I have always answered “yes”! Well recent research shows that this may not be a good decision. So let’s unpick this.

An allergic reaction varies between a rash, itching and swelling; the throat may become tight and breathing difficult. There is even a risk of anaphylaxis.

On the other hand, symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting that might develop during a course of penicillin may appear to represent an adverse reaction to the antibiotic, but not an allergy with any risk of future anaphylaxis.

Studies show that patients who once suffered an actual allergic reaction to penicillin may lose this reaction over time, so it is clear that penicillin allergy may not be for life.

Research has shown that those with “penicillin allergy” on their medical records have worse health outcomes and increased rates of antimicrobial resistance when treated with alternative, broad-spectrum antibiotics (broad-spectrum antibiotics kill a wide range of bacteria, not just the one suspected of causing infection).

A US research study this summer compared over 3,700 children and adolescents with pneumonia who had a penicillin allergy label with a similar number of those without. Those with the label had higher rates of hospitalisation, respiratory failure, intensive care treatment, adverse drug reactions and infection with Clostridium difficile (a type of bacteria that can cause a bowel infection).

Other studies have noted increased risks of infections following surgery, readmission to hospital, and infection with the MRSA superbug in “penicillin allergy” patients. That’s a risk that’s worth avoiding!

Doctors, Nurses and Pharmacies are being urged to check people who have “Allergic to Penicillin” on their record; it’s either a simple pin prick or taking a very small dose of penicillin by mouth. And guess what – I’ve been tested!!!

Sexual Health Our local Healthwatch is doing a survey on Sexual Health and wants to hear from all Hertfordshire residents aged 18 or over, even if you’ve never used a sexual health service or thought about it at all.

The survey will close on 10th November 2023. https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HwHSexualHealth

So please take this Survey – I’ve done it!!!

More about: Health

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