What’s on the line? | Winter is coming

Winter is coming!

This might sound like an advert for a new season of Game of Thrones but it means serious business for the NHS and social care services. We should all try our best to take preventative action to help reduce the pressures on overstretched health and social care services during the winter period.

One of the simplest things we can do for friends, family and neighbours in the winter months is stay in touch. Take time out for a cuppa; check up on a neighbour; make sure our nearest and dearest are looking after themselves. Conversations that might seem casual to us can make a real difference to people in your community who may not have spoken to someone for days. Essex County Council estimates that approximately 20,000 people over 65 in Essex are persistently lonely, with a further 89,000 occasionally lonely. Independent Age and Age UK have telephone befriending services that provide a listening ear and a friendly voice to isolated older adults. Contact Age UK Essex’s befriending service on 01268 525 353 to find out more. To refer someone you know, or if you’d like to discuss receiving regular phone calls or visits, or just want to find out more about Independent Age’s friendship services, contact them on 0800 319 6789.

Staying healthy can be a struggle too so it’s good to make sure you get your flu jab. Flu circulates every winter and generally peaks in December and January. You can ask your GP about having a free NHS flu vaccination if:

  • You’re aged 65 or over
  • You’re pregnant
  • You have a serious medical condition
  • You live in a residential or nursing home
  • You’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • Your child is in an at-risk group and is aged 6 months – 2 years

Even if you are not eligible for a free vaccine, many local pharmacies and supermarkets offer the flu vaccination on a walk-in basis at a small charge.

The shingles vaccination is also available for those aged between 70 – 78. Contact your GP surgery to arrange an appointment if you want to have a shingles jab.

With the winter weather approaching, it’s important to stay warm and well. Many of our senior citizens are not aware of winter fuel payments; an annual tax-free payment to help with heating costs. Most payments are made between November and December. You usually get a Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you receive the State Pension or another benefit, such as Pension Credit (but not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support or Universal Credit). If this is the first year you or a relative / friend can claim, or have not claimed before, call the Winter Fuel Payment helpline on 0800 731 0160.

Winter is often a time of extremes which highlight the plight of some of the most vulnerable residents in Essex. Calls to our helpline increase with people telling us they’re having difficulty getting proper nutrition; finding a roof over their heads; and even getting a bite to eat. If you have a problem or are in need, we can help and will provide advice and practical support to help you find the essential services you need. Our Information helpline is for anyone, of any age in the county. If you need us, call us on 0800 500 1895 (local call rate – we can call back if the cost is an issue), send a text to 07712 395 398 (standard message rate) or drop us an email at [email protected]. We’re here to help you.



Information & Signposting Officer