Winter brings us adverse weather conditions, COVID-19 and other potential outbreaks. Increased living costs may lead to pressures within our community. There are risks associated with severe cold weather that can impact our health. These create extra demands on our services. We are working with our partners in health and social care to support resilience.
Seasonal Health Intervention Network (SHINE)
Harrow Council has teamed up with SHINE, the Seasonal Health Intervention Network. SHINE is a fuel poverty referral network and free energy advice service. They provide a dedicated helpline and interventions to help reduce utility bills, tackle energy debt, and stay well and warm.
Free support from SHINE is available if you are living in Harrow and one of the following apply:
- Over 60
- On a low income
- Have a disability or long-term illness
- Have children
Advice & Services include:
- Energy & Bills, including electricity & water discounts
- Energy doctor home visits
- Energy debt support & bill comparisons
- Extra care services
- Heating & insulation grants
- Income maximisation and budgeting advice
- Fire Safety checks
- Air pollution alerts
- London Taxicard – subsidised taxi journeys for those eligible
You can get a free assessment and access a range of services by calling 0300 555 0195 or visit shine-london.org.uk
Support with bills and energy efficiency
Winter fuel payment: If you were born on or before 25 September 1956 you could get between £250 and £600.
Warmer Homes: Providing free heating, insulation and ventilation improvements. You might qualify if you own or rent privately and have a low income.
Green Doctors: Expert energy advisors helping you stay warm and save money.
Energy Grants Calculator: Find out if you qualify for free energy efficiency schemes.
OFGEM: The independent energy regulator. They work to protect consumers, especially vulnerable people, ensuring they are fairly treated.
Warm Hubs are safe places giving residents a friendly and inclusive welcome. People can come along on their own, or with a friend, and talk to others over a hot drink.
Preparation for cold weather
Pay attention to weather forecasts. If bad weather is forecast:
- Make sure you have everything you need including:
- bottled water in case the water supply is interrupted.
- Keep torches and spare batteries handy in case of power cuts. Keep emergency numbers handy and call 105 if there is a power cut. You can report a power cut and get information and advice if there is one in the area. Register with your supplier in advance, so that they call you in the event of a power cut.
Keeping Well and Staying Warm in Winter
If you feel unwell help is available from:
- Pharmacies can give treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses and tell you if you need to see a doctor. Find a pharmacy
- You may be able to speak to your GP online or over the phone or go in for an appointment if needed.
- Call 111 if you have an urgent medical problem and are unsure what to do.
For further guidance see NHS advice on how to keep warm well.
The UK Health Security Agency provide advice and guidance on keeping well and staying warm. This includes:
- heating the home, or the parts of it you’re using, to above 18 °C
- staying warm by dressing in multiple thin layers,
- having regular hot meals and drinks
- moving around as this keeps the blood flowing around the body
- planning ahead and keep in touch with the weather forecasts and cold weather alerts.
Cold weather can exacerbate some health problems. It can lead to serious complications, especially if you are elderly, vulnerable or have a long-term health condition.
Even seemingly mild temperatures (4 °C to 8 °C) can have negative consequences for health, particularly for the most vulnerable. Paying attention to cold weather is essential. Simple preventative actions often could avoid many deaths, illnesses, and injuries.
Strep A and Scarlet Fever
For information about what symptoms to look out for and what to do see Strep A and Scarlet Fever.
Autumn Booster Vaccines are available for:
- Residents in care homes
- Frontline health and social care workers
- People aged 50 and over
- People aged 5 to 49 in a clinical risk group
- Households of immunosuppressed people
- Unpaid carers aged 16 to 19
For further details see COVID-19 Vaccinations
Flu can affect people in different ways and can be serious. Find out more from the NHS about the Flu Vaccine and who is eligible.
Air pollution in winter remains in place for much longer. Cold air is denser and traps pollution. Poor air quality, cold temperatures and coughs and colds during the winter can cause a rise in breathing problems. Some individuals, particularly those with heart or lung conditions, may experience increased symptoms.
For information on pollution and advice for specific areas, call Defra’s helpline on 0800 556677, or visit the Defra website.
Vulnerable neighbours and Relatives
The NHS advises that we check on older neighbours and relatives. We should make sure they are safe, well and warm enough, especially at night. Check they have stocks of food and medicines so that they do not need to go out during very cold weather. It is also important to prevent loneliness, which can have a significant impact on wellbeing.
If you are worried about a relative or elderly neighbour contact Harrow Council or the Age UK helpline 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm daily).
Further information on loneliness is available from Age UK.
It is important to clear snow and ice from pavements outside your home to help prevent slips and falls. The Met Office advises you use salt or sand (not water). Water causes melted snow to refreeze and turn to black ice. Ice increases the risk of injuries as it is invisible and very slippery.
Take extra care if the ground is icy and slippery. Consider keeping a salt and sand mixture handy to grit your paths.
Plan ahead and take care when driving. Avoid going out in bad weather if possible. Follow advice on driving conditions.
Pack a car travel kit in advance to include:
- a bottle of water/flask of hot drink
- mobile phone and charger/back-up charger
It is not possible for the council to grit all the roads in Harrow. To find out which roads in Harrow are gritted, see Harrow's Gritting Service.
The Met Office provides further information on: