Karen Howell, chief executive of Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, writes for the Globe.

CHRISTMAS is around the corner and winter is well and truly here.

Wintery cold, damp weather can be bad for our health and make us more vulnerable to winter illnesses, but there are plenty of things we can do to try and protect ourselves. Self-care is the first step to staying well this winter.

Keep warm and hydrated, stay active, eat well and get your flu and Covid-19 vaccines - by following these simple steps you are helping yourself and others stay well this winter.

Plan how to keep warm by layering up, having hot drinks and staying active (try not to sit still for more than an hour or so).

Try to eat a variety food to get the nutrients you need - including fresh fruit and vegetables. Likewise, keep your medicines box or cabinet well stocked to aid self-care at home.

Did you know that many over-the-counter medicines relieve symptoms of colds, a sore throat, cough, sinusitis or earache?

If you do feel unwell this winter, visit your local pharmacist who can give you fast, effective advice on how to best treat minor illnesses, without having to seek further care.

If you need medical help, please consider where best to get help and avoid an unnecessary visit to A&E.

There are many options for minor illnesses and injuries that are more appropriate and convenient.

Being proactive and accessing the right service is what will get us all, including the NHS, through this winter.

For many common illnesses that are not Covid-19 related, a pharmacist or NHS 111 can offer advice.

If it's not an emergency, we are asking people visit www.111.nhs.uk or call 111 in the first instance where they have access to a range of local health services.

These include an appointment at one of our Walk-in Centres and Urgent Treatment Centre, GP out-of-hours service or a telephone consultation with a healthcare specialist- allowing you to receive the care and advice you need at home.

One of the important things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones this winter is having the Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccines are safe and effective and give you the best protection against the virus.

If you haven't had your first or second dose of the vaccine or your booster yet there are different ways you can do so:

  • You can book online via the national booking system - visit www.nhs.uk and search coronavirus vaccine. If you cannot book appointments online, you can call 119 free of charge.
  • Find a walk-in Covid-19 vaccination site to get vaccinated without needing an appointment - visit www.nhs.uk and search coronavirus vaccines
  • If you have your first dose through your GP surgery, you'll be contacted when it's time to book your second dose

Did you know all eligible people can use the NHS online walk-in finder www.nhs.uk/grab-a-jab to find the most convenient site to get their top-up without an appointment?

Here at the Trust, we want to ensure that people feel confident about accessing our clinics and services safely.

When attending your appointment please continue to follow these steps:

  • Wear a face covering when entering any of our clinic buildings
  • Gel your hands upon on arrival and on arrival in the clinic waiting room
  • Keep a two-metre distance from other people in the building
  • Come on your own* (visit our website for exemptions)

If you have any symptoms of Covid-19 please do not attend your appointment. If you have any of the main symptoms, even if they're mild please:

  • Get a PCR test to check if you have Covid-19 as soon as possible.
  • Stay at home and do not have visitors (self-isolate) until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.

There is still help here for you this winter - as always.

For more information about the services we provide please visit www.wchc.nhs.uk

Wishing you a happy, healthy Christmas.