Better Health - it's Stoptober so quit smoking and breathe easier

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Better Health - Stoptober is back in its ninth year. However, this year it’s different.

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In 2020, the world experienced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that affected all aspects of our daily lives including perceptions of our own health. Therefore, this year Better Health -Stoptober is here to help smokers understand in its new campaign message that, “Now more than ever, ahead of flu season, it’s time to put your lungs first, quit smoking and breathe easier!"

Stoptober is the annual campaign under Public Health England’s (PHE) new umbrella brand, ‘Better Health Let’s Do This’ that encourages smokers across the country to join in and give quitting a go for the month of October.

This year’s campaign will focus on respiratory health by highlighting the harm smoking causes and the benefits of quitting. It will also build on the sense of community generated by the pandemic and motivate smokers to make a quit attempt through positive messaging.

There are a number of other ways you can get information and support in Thurrock to stop smoking:

Contact: 0800 292 2299
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Help others see again, sign up to be a cornea donor

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A new campaign has launched to encourage all of us to sign up to being a cornea donor.

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The #IDonation Twitter campaign from NHS Blood and Transport aims to highlight the low numbers of corneas available in the UK. Cornea donation are currently half the number that are needed to help people dealing with sight loss.

People are being reminded of the importance of having a conversation about organ and tissue donation with their family or friends on World Sight Day (Thursday 8 October).

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented many challenges across the NHS, including organ and tissue donation. There are currently half as few corneas available than are needed for patients in the UK.

This World Sight Day, organisations from across the UK will be donating the ‘i’ from their logos to help raise awareness of the ongoing need for cornea donors and are encouraging others to do the same.

Over the last year, 3,782 people in England have had their sight restored through cornea transplants. One donor can help up to 10 people, helping restore or improve their vision and allowing them to see their friends and family properly again. 

Judith’s story

Judith Bonsor, 65 from Stockton-on-Tees, receiveJudith before her double cornea transplantd two corneal transplants in 2020 – the first in February and second in July, on her birthday, which Judith described as “the best birthday present ever!”

In 2011, Judith went for a routine optician appointment where she was told she had frosting on her eyes, but initially didn’t think anything of it as she could see fine and had only ever needed reading glasses.

After various scans and tests Judith was told she had Fuchs endothelial dystrophy, a progressive disease that affects the cornea. Over the following years, Judith’s sight began to slightly change as she noticed light was reflecting differently and it was getting increasingly more difficult to see in the mornings.

Judith said, “I was put onto the transplant waiting list in 2018. Although I was upset that my eyesight had started to deteriorate, I was surprised to be on the waiting list so soon as I thought I’d have to be much worse before being considered for a transplant.

“I was on the waiting list for two years before my two successful transplants in 2020. I’m very aware of the high number of people who choose not to donate their corneas, and I want to share my story to encourage people to rethink and show what a positive impact it can have on other people.

“The cornea transplants have allowed me to see clearly and not be looking through a haze. Before I wouldn’t drive on a morning because my eyes did not clear until after lunch and even then, they were still a little hazy. I could not read small print and light reflected off the paper sometimes making it impossible to read without a magnifying glass.

“My cornea transplants have given me back my confidence.”

One in 10 people on the NHS Organ Donor Register have indicated that they do not wish to donate their corneas, making corneas the part of the body that most people say they do not wish to donate. However, previous research from NHS Blood and Transplant has shown that donation is more likely to be agreed if family or friends know what their relative wanted.

As of 15 September, there were 161 corneas in NHS Blood and Transplant’s eye banks – this is far less than the 350 corneas needed at any one time to supply to hospitals and means longer waits for patients for a suitable match.

This, coupled with the fact that corneas are the least selected tissue to donate, has led to people living with sight loss because of disease having to endure a longer wait to have their sight restored or their condition improved.

There is hope that the introduction of Max and Keira’s Law – the new law relating to organ and tissue donation in England – which came into effect on 20th May, will lead to an increase in the number of donors, however families will continue to be consulted before organ donation goes ahead. It is therefore still important to ensure your relatives know what you would want to happen if organ donation becomes a possibility.

Helen Gillan, General Manager for Tissue and Eye Services at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Donating sight means there can be light after darkness. No one should have to go without being able to see their loved ones, which is why we are reminding people to consider giving the gift of sight.

“We understand that people often view the eyes with more emotion and see them as more symbolic than other parts of the body, but what greater gift can you give to someone than the ability to see the world around them, their loved ones faces and the independence which comes from being able to once again see things with their own eyes.

“Even now the law around organ and tissue donation has changed, families will still be approached before donation goes ahead. If you agree to cornea donation please help by sharing your decision with friends and family, so they are better equipped to act for you should that day ever come.”

Unlike with organ donation, corneas don’t have to be donated immediately. Corneas can be donated up to 24 hours after death and donation can take place in hospital, hospices, or funeral homes.

The eye is never transplanted whole – only the cornea is transplanted. The cornea is the clear outer layer at the front of the eye that helps the eye to focus light.

  • To find out more about organ and tissue donation, the new law or to register your organ and tissue donation decision, please visit: 
  • Make sure you have told those closest to you your organ and tissue donation decision so that they know to honour what you would like to happen.

Permanent Joint Accountable Officer for CCGs announced

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Experienced health and care leader Anthony McKeever has been permanently appointed to the role of Executive Lead for the Mid and Essex Health and Care Partnership and Joint Accountable Officer for its five CCGs

Anthony has undertaken the role on an interim basis since March and brings with him considerable experience in a variety of senior NHS and civil service roles.

Announcing Anthony’s appointment Dr Anna Davey, GP and chair of NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We look forward to continuing to working with Anthony. His experience and knowledge have supported us to confront the unique challenges of the pandemic and will also support us to continue to strengthen our collaboration with colleagues across mid and south Essex.

Professor Michael Thorne, CBE, Independent Chair of the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership said: “I am delighted that we have attracted someone with Anthony’s huge experience and proven skills in system working to be the executive lead for the partnership. His commitment to improving things for the benefit of the population we serve shines through in everything he does.”

GP services are there when you need them

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The coronavirus pandemic has meant that the NHS has had to work differently in order to keep staff and patients safe. Local GPs would like to remind local residents that for everyone’s safety, GP Practices will continue to operate a ‘phone first’ system if they feel it would be better to see a patient in person then they have made it safe to do so.

There are four main ways to seek healthcare advice from your GP:

  • Call your surgery to discuss a face-to-face or virtual (telephone or video) appointment;
  • In some practices you can visit your GP surgery website and complete a confidential online form to receive a response before the end of the next working day;
  • Call NHS 111 or go online to seek advice;
  • Download the NHS App to order repeat prescriptions, book appointments and check your symptoms.

Please do not present at A&E unless it is an emergency. Appointments will carried out in one of three ways:

  • by telephone
  • via video consultation
  • in person at the practice

Face to face appointments will be arranged if they are medically appropriate and considered in the best interests of the patient.

Practices are open Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6.30pm. Patients should also be aware that pre-bookable evening and weekend appointment are also available. To book an evening or weekend appointment, patients should contact their practice in the usual way.

Dr Anil Kallil, Chair of NHS Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“We understand that some people will still feel reluctant or nervous about contacting their GP – whether that is because they don’t want to be a burden or they are hesitant about going into a practice.

“However, I would urge people to seek medical help from NHS 111 or at their local GP Practice if they have a health issue. GP Practice staff have been working incredibly hard to ensure local people get the help that they need. For everyone’s safety, we are still asking patients to contact our GP practices remotely – and we have adapted really well to this new way of working – but if we feel it would be better to see a patient in person it is safe to do so.

"If you are waiting for a check-up, please be assured your practice will be in touch. Appointments are being delivered face-to-face, online and over the telephone to manage demand. Remember, if you are asked to come into a surgery for a face-to-face appointment, please wear a face covering. These measures are in place to keep you safe from infection during your visit to the surgery”.

Getting your NHS flu vaccine

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GPs urge the most vulnerable to protect themselves from flu this winter and accept invitation for vaccine when contacted

Local GPs are encouraging local people over the age of 65 and those under this age who are in a clinical at-risk group to accept invitations to receive their free NHS flu vaccine to help protect them from flu and its potentially serious complications – especially given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

GP practices will be contacting the most vulnerable people in the highest risk groups first as a priority, please be patient if you have not been contacted yet as the vaccine is delivered in phases. If you are contacted by your GP practice it’s important you respond so you can be allocated a suitable time for your vaccination and you are protected as early as possible. You can also have your vaccination at your local community pharmacy if this is more convenient.

People in the 50-64-year old age group who are not in the ‘at-risk’ groups will not be vaccinated until November and December, providing there is sufficient vaccine and no appointments will be offered for this age group until then. This is to ensure that those who are most at risk are vaccinated first. If you are 50-64 and you are in one of the other groups which is eligible for the flu vaccination, for example you have a health condition which puts you at risk from the flu, you will be invited earlier.

If you are not in a high-risk group please do not call your practice to request a flu vaccination to allow GP practices and pharmacies to focus on their work to get the most vulnerable groups in our community vaccinated first.

Dr Anil Kallil local GP and Chair of NHS Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“Flu can lead to more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia and the flu vaccine will also help prevent it spreading to other family members. The flu virus changes each year, and with the additional complications COVID-19 has brought I’d urge the most vulnerable to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others against the latest strain when the time comes.”

We are aware that some people do not take up their flu vaccine, even if they are at risk. To understand how we can do things differently to make sure those most at risk are protected this winter, the Clinical Commissioning Group is running an online survey. Please visit the survey page of our website or keep an eye on our social media accounts for more information.

For an Easy Read version of this survey, please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The flu vaccine is routinely given on the NHS to:

  • Adults age 65 and over
  • People with long term health conditions including:
    • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (that requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
    • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
    • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
    • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • All pregnant women
  • All children aged two to 11 years via nasal spray vaccine
  • Household contacts of those on the NHS shielded patient list or of immunocompromised individuals
  • People living in long stay residential care home or facility
  • Those in receipt of carers allowance
  • Health and social care staff including all care homes, hospices/ employed directly through direct payments (personal health budgets etc).

See this leaflet for more information about who is eligible or for more information about the flu vaccination visit the NHS website. For more information in easy read or another language, please see below:

Easy read flu resources
Translated flu information