OUR NHS is facing extraordinary pressures at the moment.

It’s not unusual at this time of year – I can’t remember a single year since I qualified where we haven’t had a very challenging winter.

Dr Zoe says 'My advice is get your jabs and booster – get every vaccine available to you'

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Dr Zoe says ‘My advice is get your jabs and booster – get every vaccine available to you’

When temperatures plummet below zero, we see a huge increase in people suffering heart attacks and strokes, because the blood is more likely to clot.

There’s a higher risk of pneumonia and, of course, it’s also flu season. And that’s all before you add Covid into the mix.

This year, like last winter before it, we are seeing a system that was already at capacity being pushed beyond its limit.

The health service can’t take much more, and the incredible staff who work in the NHS have endured a gruelling two years and haven’t had a break.

So, with the inevitable pressures that the NHS is facing, it’s important to remember that every single one of us can do our bit to help. First and foremost, you can protect yourself against Covid. Getting vaccinated is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself, your family, friends, wider society and our NHS.

I understand there are still people who are hesitant, but my advice is get your jabs and booster – get every vaccine available to you. We know they are safe and effective. And recent data has shown they make a huge difference against Omicron, with 90 per cent of patients in some ICUs unjabbed.

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For those people who are worried that “we don’t have enough data”, let me put it this way: The Covid vaccine is arguably the most widely given medical intervention we have ever seen, with more than nine billion doses having been given worldwide.

Other people will worry about the potential long-term effects, and again I understand that. But you could say that there is a potential risk associated with literally anything in this day and age.

We have no idea what the long-term effects will be of wearing cordless earphones, or using smartphones, but yet we all balance the risk versus the benefit.

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The same goes for the Covid jab, and the known benefit far outweighs any possibility of theoretical future risk.

Keep warm to keep well

Aside from having your Covid jabs, there are other steps we can all take to help relieve some of the pressure on the health service right now.

Given the weather, if you are someone who has heart or lung problems, it’s worth taking extra care. Try to stay warm when outside and, if you can afford to, turn up the heating at home – although I know this might be difficult for some people given the increase in energy prices.

Eating nutritious, warm food and having plenty of hot drinks is another good way to keep warm. If you take regular medication, make sure you don’t run out and keep taking it as prescribed by your doctor.

And if you’re fit and healthy, small changes to the way you access the NHS can really make a huge difference. Make use of your local pharmacy – it’s not just the place where you can get hold of lateral flow tests.

Pharmacists train for five years and are excellently placed to treat minor injuries and illnesses – the added bonus is you don’t need an appointment.

Next up is NHS 111 and 999. While both are facing huge call volumes and are overwhelmed at the moment, NHS 111 can be very helpful at pointing patients in the right direction.

And last but by no means least, we can all remember the “be kind” message. In the first lockdown, we all stepped outside and banged pans and clapped for our NHS.

Two years on, they are still facing the same challenges – arguably their jobs are even harder now than ever before.

Our small actions can make a big difference, and help our NHS ride out this winter storm.

Dr Zoe

I know it can be difficult when you’re in pain or unwell, but spare a thought for your doctors, nurses, ward clerks, admin teams, GP receptionists, porters, paramedics and NHS call handlers.

Every single member of staff working for the NHS is doing their best – and they are absolutely exhausted.

Our small actions can make a big difference, and help our NHS ride out this winter storm.

People without boosters make up almost 50% of daily cases, expert reveals
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