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Health / Number of winter deaths down by one quarter

NHS Shetland flu vaccination plan gets underway in October and November

THE NUMBER of ‘winter deaths’ in Shetland in 2018/19 was around around one quarter less than the previous year, according to new figures.

A total of 67 deaths were registered in Shetland between December 2018 and March this year – a decrease of 23 on the period the previous year.

The figure of 90 for 2017/18 was the second highest number in the last decade.

Speaking about the national figures, Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said every winter period sees a seasonal increase in deaths compared to the rest of the year.

“We know that winter creates particular pressures on our health and social care system,” she commented.

“This is why it is crucial that those with underlying health conditions, those who are pregnant or are older than 65 receive their free flu vaccination. The vaccination offers the best defence against the flu virus which can lead to serious complications and potentially hospital treatment.”

The figures were released on the same day (Tuesday) that the NHS Shetland board approved its 2019/20 winter plan.

The plan maps out the service provision and special arrangements that will be put in place during the festive season and through the winter period.

Members were told that the arrangements will be largely the same as previous years.

“We are well rehearsed in developing strategies to cope with winter pressures,” director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said.

Interim NHS Shetland chief executive Simon Bokor-Ingram noted that winter planning may be coupled with “dealing with the effects of Brexit…particularly a no deal Brexit”.

He said in view of a “number of different challenges at the same time” it is increasingly important to work in tandem with other partners in Shetland, like the local authority.

The vaccination of “at risk” groups against flu, meanwhile, will take place in Shetland in October and November.

The large pop-in sessions at the Clickimin for people in Lerwick, and eligible Scalloway patients if it is easier, will take place on 5 and 26 November.

Lerwick GP practice manager Adam Czarnobay said the practice would, wherever possible, use its text messaging service to inform patients if they were eligible for the flu jab and to give details of the vaccination clinics at the Clickimin.

NHS Shetland patients registered outside of Lerwick will be invited by post or through local publicity to visit their local health centre for the jab.

As in previous years, those eligible for the flu vaccine are:

  • Anyone who will be aged 65 or over on March 31, 2020
  • Adults between 18 and 64 with an underlying long-term health condition
  • All pregnant women
  • All pre-school children aged two to five and all those of primary school age
  • Other children aged from six months and up to 18 years if they have an underlying health condition.

Consultant in public health medicine Dr Susan Laidlaw said: “Each year there are slightly different strains of seasonal (winter) flu circulating in the community, this is why a new vaccine has to be given each year.

“The vaccine helps to protect people who are more vulnerable to flu and the complications of flu, including people over 65, those with certain medical conditions and pregnant women.

“It is also essential that those who look after vulnerable people are vaccinated. This includes unpaid carers, health care workers and social care workers.”