Flu; should YOU be immunised?!

Influenza or ‘Flu’ is a word that can fill even the healthiest of us with dread.


Flu is characterised by the sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, and extreme fatigue. Other common symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting, a dry cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose. For otherwise healthy adults, influenza is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease with recovery typically within 2 to 7 days. Symptoms in children can last up to 2 weeks. See below for a link to advice on managing flu symptoms.




For some of us with certain health conditions it poses an even greater risk, with complications such pneumonia and higher rates of hospitalisation. For this reason the NHS provides flu vaccination to certain ‘at risk’ groups.


You could be eligible for free flu vaccination if you fall into one of the following categories:


  • Chronic respiratory disease, such as severe asthma (not mild) or COPD/chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • Chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic neurological disease, such as a stroke, TIA, motor neurone disease, MS or learning disability
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Asplenia or splenic dysfunction including sickle cell anaemia
  • A weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment/ immunosuppressant’s)


You could also be eligible if you are a carer or a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed e.g. on cancer treatment. Children aged 2-7 and those aged 65 or over are also eligible.


If you are not eligible you can still seek flu immunisation privately, this can cost as little as £5 via some pharmacies.


Studies have shown that the flu jab definitely works and will help prevent you getting the flu. However, it won’t stop all flu viruses, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free. The vaccine works by stimulating your body’s immune system to make antibodies that attack the flu virus. If you catch the flu virus after you’ve had the vaccination, your immune system will recognise it and immediately produce antibodies to fight it.


You need the injection each year so it’s important to book your vaccination as soon as you get your text. Patients known to be in eligible groups should have received their first text inviting them to book an appointment. If you think you are eligible but have not received a text then please call the office at the Students’ Health Service on 0117 3302720.

Below is a link to the 2016 information booklet on flu vaccination-





Getting appointments at SHS; easier than before!

Whats new?!


At Students’ Health Service we are constantly aiming to improve the service we provide. In response to patient feedback we have made some signficant changes to the options you will have for getting help from us.

Whenever possible the website should be your first point of contact. New for this term you will find here the ‘webGP’ icon. Here you can find useful advice including a symptom checker, self-help guides and details of ways to contact the practice, including sending your doctor an e-consult for many common problems.

In addition to our doctors we have an experienced team of nurses, many of whom are prescribers (can write prescriptions for medicines), and new for 2016 we are going to have a clinical pharmacist too. To help you to see the right person for your needs, there is a guide to booking your appointment on the SHS website.

Whilst you can of course still come in to the practice, or telephone reception, it will now also be possible to book appointments online too. You can ask for a PIN number to access this service once the NHS has processed your registration with us.

Overall we are offering more appointments than ever before!

Please try out webGP before you book your next appointment if possible!

Thank you


Who should help me when I’m ill?

You may have noticed that when you call to book an appointment our receptionist will ask you if the health concern you have is ‘Something the nurse could help with?’.

The reason for this is to try and ensure that our patients are seen by the correct professional from first contact with us. The receptionist will try to find out the ‘nature of the problem’, with the aim of helping you to waste minimal time in getting to the right appointment.

If you or the receptionist are unsure about who can help, then they will ask the GP who is with them in recpetion every morning, so that an expert opinion advises you immediately. The GPs won’t give medical advice over the phone at this point or do a consultation, but they will guide you to an appropriate clinician, which might also include a pharmacist or dentist, as many people phone to book a GP appointment for toothache, or conjunctivitis, when these can best be dealt with elsewhere.

An alternative to booking by phone is to book online of course, and if you are interested in this option just apply for the PIN number required, via our website. It is much more convenient than sitting in a queue of people waiting for us to get to your call.

Our phones ring constantly in the morning, so it helps us a lot if you can be brief and tell us the nature of the problem immediately eg ‘pill check up’, or ‘mental health’, and can be flexible around appointment timing options please, as we have a very large list size of patients, and not enough NHS funding for more staff (despite campaigning constantly for better funding for young people’s healthcare).

We always do our best to get you to the right appointment first time, it doesn’t always work, but our intentions are good, and your support is appreciated.

If your problem is a medically urgent one, then please state this and why and we will always see you the same day.

If you need a certificate, then please speak to our office team first, Option 2. You may not need an appointment.

Please don’t use A&E unless it really is an emergency eg broken bone, collapse etc, as the Out of Hours GP is available 24/7, just phone our usual number. A&E is under strain nationally, and we should try to keep it for what it is designed for please.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and understand our system. We are here to help!


FODMAPS; not a catchy name but a very important food group!

FODMAPS; what’s that about then?!

  • Fermentable
  • Oligo
  • Di
  • Mono-saccharides
  • And
  • Polyols

These are foods that have been found to make the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome worse.

Therefore people diagnosed with, or who think they might have IBS, should follow a low FODMAP diet. FODMAPS don’t get digested easily, they ferment and create gas (wind) in the bowel, and this leads to bloating, cramps and diarrhoea.

There are many other ways to also manage your symptoms, such as taking a daily probiotic capsule, and avoiding certain types of fibre (insoluble); found in wheat, bran, corn and wholegrains.

Most people find that decreasing fizzy drinks, caffeine and alcohol helps, as they can all increase the speed at which food passes through the gut, and so make IBS worse.

If you would like to discuss your IBS then do book a routine appointment with one of our GPs. You can also check out the FODMAP apps available online to help you plan your diet, and see which lovely foods you can eat in peace.


Accessing health care over the holidays!

There are a number of ways to access health care in the UK during the vacation:

  1. If you are in or visiting Bristol, you can access care as usual from the Students’ Health Service.
  2. If you want advice about an ongoing issue for which we have seen you, please make a telephone appointment with a GP. Not all medical concerns can be resolved in this way.
  3. THINK AHEAD- if you are running low on a regular medication,  please send repeat prescription  requests by post, with a stamped addressed envelope.  There will be cases when this is not appropriate, e.g. you need up-to-date blood pressure or blood tests.

This useful link gives further advice,



  1. If you are away from Bristol and need medical care you can contact a local GP and sign on as a ‘temporary resident’. We advise our students not to sign on as a ‘permanent patient’ if they are returning to Bristol as a student after the vacation, as this causes problems with transfer of medical notes.  Please follow this link for information regarding accessing healthcare in this way



  1. Remember that other clinics may meet your needs e.g. local family planning service, STI clinic or minor injury services. Details of these can be found on the link above.


  1. Remember that ‘A+E/999 calls’ are for medical emergencies.  If your local GP is closed and you want medical advice for a problem that cannot wait until the surgery re-opens (but is not an emergency), please call 111 to get advice (as you would normally do in Bristol).

It’s Time to Talk about Mental Health! #TimetoTalk

This weeks blog is a quiz!

Time to stop the stigma surrounding mental ill health. See how much you know in the attached short quiz, via the link below. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page to see the Myth/ Fact quiz.

Then spread the word. It’s OK to talk about mental health!







Is the Hippocratic Oath still relevant today?

There was a time when doctors swore an oath when they qualified, and in some medical schools they still do. We didn’t but I was curious to read the Hippocratic Oath, and to see if we missed out, and whether it still felt relevant in modern medicine. After all, 400BC is a long time ago!


There have been a couple of modern revisions, in 1964 at Tufts Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, the Dean of Medicine wrote a ‘modern version’, and the BMJ published a more recent revision a few years ago. It begins;

The practice of medicine is a privilege which carries important responsibilities. All doctors should observe the core values of the profession which centre on the duty to help sick people and to avoid harm. I promise that my medical knowledge will be used to benefit people’s health. They are my first concern. I will listen to them and provide the best care I can. I will be honest, respectful and compassionate towards patients. In emergencies, I will do my best to help anyone in medical need.”

It goes on to cover respect, especially of vulnerable people; remaining independent of politics; not putting profit before patients; respect for life, but not at any cost; a holistic approach; informing patients of their options; confidentiality; knowing the limits of one’s own knowledge; respect for colleagues, and finishes;

I will use my training and professional standing to improve the community in which I work. I will treat patients equitably and support a fair and humane distribution of health resources. I will try to influence positively authorities whose policies harm public health. I will oppose policies which breach internationally accepted standards of human rights. I will strive to change laws which are contrary to patients’ interests or to my professional ethics.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the original and modern versions are still fundamentally relevant today, and perhaps even more so in our politically damaged NHS. As doctors we need to remember who to put first, despite the huge pressures on us from political masters to meet targets and dumb down to ‘tick box medicine’. We must protect those who cannot speak up for themselves, and care equally for those with mental health issues, despite the NHS under-funding their care.

I have enjoyed learning about the Hippocratic Oath, and am glad that, despite never having sworn it aloud,  I live by it every day.



Childhood Immunisations; everything you need to know

In the UK, all children are offered immunisations to protect them from potentially serious or life threatening diseases. The vaccination schedule begins at 8 weeks and at Students’ Health Service (SHS) we offer the full range of vaccines (except BCG). View the current routine immunisation schedule here.

Once registered at SHS, you will be invited to make an appointment for your children if they require vaccination. If you have come to Bristol from another country, please inform us of the vaccination history of your children, so we can continue to protect them while you are here. if you have moved from elsewhere in the UK your child’s records will follow, but please bring your Red Book.

If you require a relative or nanny to bring your child for their vaccinations, you will need to notify us in writing. Please see our consent policy.

It is natural as a parent to feel anxious about bringing your baby/child for their vaccinations. If you have a new baby they will be seen by a doctor at 6 weeks old, for consent to immunisation,  and by a nurse at 8 weeks for their first vaccinations. Older children will not need to see a doctor first.

It is important to bring the child’s ‘Red Book’ or vaccination history with you so the correct vaccinations are given and recorded.

It is a good idea for your child to be dressed in easy to remove clothing and to inform older children about what is going to happen to them. This makes it less stressful for them.

When vaccines are given, you will be asked to sit your child on your knee and hug them firmly. The whole process is very quick!

Sometimes after a vaccination, children will develop a mild fever. It is ok to give them infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring their temperature down.


For further details see below:



Camping; a cure for insomnia?

I was fascinated to read a new bit of research published in August, when so many of our students were off camping. Sadly I don’t think festival camping will count, but if you were in the outback, somewhere with minimal night lights and sitting by the camp fire, then well done!



It seems that living by the maxim “up when it’s light and asleep when it’s dark” is based in science… it’s one of the pieces of advice we give our students who suffer from insomnia, along with;


  • Avoid napping in the day
  • Avoid alcohol/ caffeine 4-6 hours before bed time
  • Exercise regularly, but not just before bed
  • Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, every day
  • Block out light/ noise as much as possible
  • Don’t use the bedroom as an office or place of work
  • If you cannot sleep having woken in the middle of the night, then after 20mins get up and do a quiet activity, have a bath etc before going back to bed and trying again.


If your insomnia persists then please come and talk to a doctor.

What I like about the camping research is that it is so simple and pares back all the stuff we do to ourselves that stops us sleeping, so that within just a few days of a simple routine being followed sleep returns.


Good sleep habits are vital for our wellbeing, health and mood. If you are suffering, then please come and see us.

Coughs, Colds and Sore Throats – what you need to know…

Coughs, Colds and Sore Throats are very common particularly at this time of year.

There is no magic cure for the common cold! There is no treatment that will shorten the length of the infection. Treatment aims to ease symptoms whilst your immune system clears the virus. Note: antibiotics do not kill viruses, so are of no use for colds.

For more information and advice about colds please visit http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Common-Cold.htm

Most coughs are caused by viral infections, and usually soon go. There is no ‘quick fix’ for a cough due to a viral infection. You need to be patient until the cough goes, which can be up to 4 weeks.

Most viral coughs clear without complications.

See a doctor if any of the following occur.

  • If symptoms such as fever, chest pains, or headaches become worse or severe.
  • If you develop breathing difficulties such as wheezing or shortness of breath.
  • If you cough up blood. Blood may be bright red but dark or rusty coloured sputum may indicate blood.
  • If you become drowsy or confused.
  • If you develop any symptoms which you are unhappy about, or do not understand.
  • If you have a cough that persists for longer than 3-4 weeks.

For more information and advice about coughs please visit http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Cough-Caused-by-a-Virus.htm

A sore throat usually goes after a few days. Simple treatments that you can buy from a pharmacist can ease symptoms until the sore throat goes. Usually, you would only need to see a doctor if symptoms are severe or if they do not ease within 3-4 days. Have plenty to drink, but avoid alcohol as this can make you more dehydrated, take regular paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease pain, headache and fever and consider lozenges and gargles to soothe a sore throat.

For more information and advice about sore throats please visit http://www.patient.co.uk/health/sore-throat