All right down there?

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening programme offers screening every two years to all men and women aged 60-74 (or 50-74 in Scotland) who are registered with a GP. If you are eligible you will automatically receive a test kit in the post with instructions.

A bowel cancer cell

The screening is for healthy people with no apparent signs of the disease. The test actually looks for traces of blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of cancer. So a positive doesn’t mean you definitely have cancer.

If bowel cancer is diagnosed at an early stage there is a good chance it can be successfully treated. The statistics show that 9 out of ten people survive their cancer for five years or more if it is diagnosed early.

Collecting a sample of your poo might not be your idea of good fun, and it is your choice whether to take part in the programme, but might just nip something rather unpleasant in the bud.

You can find out more about bowel screening on the Cancer Research website at


Put it in the diary…

It might not be the time of year you want to think about getting a flu jab, but the NHS’ plans are well advanced for this winter’s immunisation programme.

Once again you will be able to get a flu jab at your local pharmacy.

For residents in England, the good news is that once again you will be able to get a flu jab at your local pharmacy – no appointment necessary!

The national flu immunisation programme is being extended to children in a phased roll-out. As well as all two to four year olds, in 2016-17 the vaccine will additionally be offered to all children of school year 3 age. Children of school years 1 and 2 age will remain eligible.

The NHS hopes that the children’s programme, once fully implemented, will avert many cases of severe flu and flu-related deaths in older adults and others in ‘at risk’ groups.

Provisional data show that in 2015/16 the vaccine was well matched to the circulating strains of flu. Throughout the past decade, there has generally been a good match between the strains of flu in the vaccine and those that subsequently circulated.

Flu vaccination remains the best way to protect people from flu. Remember that come the autumn.

Watch your weight to improve arthritis symptoms

There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis. However, there are some things you can do to help manage the disease and improve your symptoms.

No cure but you can improve symptoms

One of the most important is to keep a healthy body weight, mainly for protection of your knee joints. Being overweight is a major risk factor for knee osteoarthritis. It increases the risk of OA developing and makes the symptoms worse.

OA happens when cartilage, the tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint, breaks down. There are two main ways for OA to develop. The first is through forces acting upon the joints. The second path is through an increase in inflammation, which leads to an increase in pain. Fat creates and releases chemicals within the body that promote inflammation.

Body weight directly influences both pathways. Being overweight not only increases the load placed on the knee joints which can help to speed up the breakdown of cartilage, it also makes the condition worse.

General practice in England nearing ‘saturation point’…

You, the people of England are visiting your GP more often and are having longer consultations than you were in 2007, according to a study in The Lancet.

We now spend more time with our GP

The study warns the increases are unsustainable, and that general practice in England could be reaching saturation point. So making your local pharmacy your first point of call could be even more practical and sensible than ever!

The pressures have not been eased by the fact that recruitment of new GPs and nurses remains low while the population steadily increases.

The study was based on an analysis of more than 100 million GP and nurse consultations at 398 general practices in England between 2007 and 2014 – equivalent to 4.5 per cent of all GP practices in England.

Between 2007 and 2014, the average number of annual consultations (face-to-face, telephone and home visits) per patient rose by 13.67% for doctors and 2.76% for nurses. Average consultation times also increased by 5% from 8.45 minutes in 2007 to 8.86 minutes in 2014.

What does your doctor mean by cardiac risk?

Cardiac risk calculators are frequently used to predict the chances of people having heart disease.

Population statistics are used to work out the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease, things like being overweight or smoking. This information gives doctors a good idea of what your heart attack risk is, based on your lifestyle.

What’s your cardiac risk?

Reducing the risk of heart attacks and stroke for people as they get older can be helped by changing individual factors. Age is one risk factor that cannot be modified, but others such as cholesterol and blood pressure can be.
Using these early predictions for a raised risk of a major heart event within 10 years is a guide for lifestyle changes and medication that can bring the predicted risk down. If you are at higher than average risk of heart problems you may find your GP prescribes you statins or blood pressure drugs, for example.

Ask one of our pharmacists if you want more information about cardiac risk calculators.


Beware of driving risks if you get hayfever…

Have you noticed you have been sniffing and sneezing a bit over the past few weeks? Runny nose? Eyes a bit itchy? You may be suffering from hayfever brought on by tree pollen, the first pollen type to peak during the year.

Keep some tissues in the car

Many hay fever sufferers jump into their cars poorly prepared for their journey. Your local pharmacy can help you reduce the dangers of driving by taking proper precautions.
Choosing the right anti-histamine is highly important as some older, yet popular, brands can make you drowsy. Ask your pharmacist for long acting, non-sedating antihistamine.

Treat watery eyes before driving You need to be able to see where you are going so use anti-allergy eye drops before getting behind the wheel. Again, ask one of our pharmacists for an appropriate product.

Keep tissues handy. A sudden sneeze or a continuous running nose can be annoying and easily distract a driver. So don’t forget to pick up a pack of tissues to keep in the car.

Toddlers’ eating habits may harm long-term health

Toddlers in the UK are consuming more calories and protein than recommended, which puts them at risk of obesity in later life, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Toddlers need a balanced diet too

Dietary preferences and habits are established during the first two years of life and what you eat then can have an enduring impact. Increased protein in early life is a risk factor for obesity, and high intakes of salt may set taste preferences for the future, increasing the risk of raised blood pressure in later life.
Researchers found that at 21 months, 63% of children exceeded the recommended daily intake of 968 calories, consuming an average on 1,035 calories. On average 40g of protein was consumed per day, but just 15g is recommended for children aged 1-3. Salt intake was almost three times higher than the 0.5g recommended, and fibre intake among many young children was 8g, half that recommended.