NOW the leaves have started falling, we are fast approaching winter.

You will have heard a lot in the news about the pressures winter brings to the NHS.

Many people struggle to cope in the colder weather as temperatures drop, illness spreads and the conditions outside get harder to deal with.

Winter does not just have an impact on the NHS though as the Council cares for people in the community after they leave hospital.

We help people make sure their homes are heated and we are responsible for looking after some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

It is a shared challenge and one we are committed to supporting.

You may have seen in the papers recently that we have contributed a significant sum to the emergency budget supporting the Great Western Hospital and we are also running a number of campaigns in partnership with the NHS to try and ease the pressure on health services.

One of the most important campaigns centres on flu vaccination.

The effect of flu is widespread across all age groups in the UK.

For most people this may mean time off work, missed social events and that horrible feeling of being ill for a week – or even two.

However, flu can be a life threatening illness for the elderly, pregnant women or those with cancer and other long term diseases.

Flu accounts for up to 20,000 deaths a year and plays a significant part in winter deaths in the UK.

The worst thing about these statistics is that flu is very much preventable.

The flu vaccine is available to everyone. Each year a new vaccine is developed to protect us against the strains in circulation and is around 80 per cent effective.

For the vulnerable in society the vaccine is free and for the rest of us you may have it available through your workplace or can ask for it at your GP surgery.

You may not care about whether you get the flu yourself but it’s worth remembering that you may be the one to spread the illness to someone who can’t fight it off as well as you can.

We can all play a part in preventing the impact of flu, saving the NHS’s resources for other vital treatments and stopping the people you love getting ill.

The solution is easy, make sure you get your vaccine.

To get your flu vaccine, speak to your GP or your local community pharmacy.