West Berkshire Council

West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Blog

News and updates from West Berkshire Council's Public Health and Wellbeing Team

Keeping you updated on health and wellbeing issues in West Berkshire, plus health improvement services and campaigns across the council and district. 

Our Public Health and Wellbeing Team is committed to reducing local health inequalities and supporting vulnerable groups. You can contact us or visit our Public Health and Wellbeing pages for more information.



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Self Care for Carers - a how to guide

Written on: 28-1-2020

Carers are special people. They tirelessly devote their time to the needs and wants of the person they are caring for, whether they are looking after a member of the family or are employed in some capacity. The thing about being a carer though, is that very often they forget to look after themselves. Live-in care specialists at Helping Hands have stated that one in ten adults in the UK are carers in some form, which means nearly seven million people. And the health of carers is a recognised issue. To deliver the best of care and to ensure their own health, physical and mental, a carer needs to practise self-care on a regular basis.

Keep fit

Caring can mean a lot of time being on your feet all day. You may have lifting to do - assisting your charge in and out of bed, helping them to the bathroom, guiding them in and out of their wheelchair or walker etc. This can take its toll on your back, your muscles, and most certainly your feet. To do this with ease, it is important to keep your body in shape with regular gentle exercise. Yoga or Tai Chi are good regimens for all ages. It is also a good idea to start your day with some gentle stretching exercises. This means your body is better able to take any strain when lifting early in the day.

Look after your diet

As well as looking after the nutritional needs of the person you are caring for, pay attention to your own diet. Take a look at the Eat Well website for ideas. If you do the cooking for you and the carer, make meals you both enjoy paying attention to fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meat. If you have dietary or allergy considerations, browse for recipes online. Be sure to get those all important 5-a-day, but remember to treat yourself too. If you need a break from cooking duties, consider giving your local Meals on Wheels service a call.


Your caring duties and thinking about your patient can be all consuming so there needs to be a route of escape, a time when you can cast off those worries and concerns for a while to concentrate on yourself. Your downtime should be spent doing something you enjoy. It might be a hobby or simply a time to catch up on your favourite TV shows but it should be something you like to do on your own. Try to plan some specific time in each day or week, so you have something to look forward to. You may like to get in touch with Reading and West Berkshire Carers Hub which provides information about carer support groups and a range of other support. It can be a lonely life as a carer, especially if your charge is not able to communicate very well. Being able to spend time with other people can be a refreshing and re-energising change where you can talk about things you enjoy or things that interest you, or even just spend companionable time together over a drink or a cup of coffee. Being around like minded people who deal with similar pressures and issues can help you feel less alone and also there's the opportunity to learn from others' experiences. Sign up to receive the monthly newsletter, by emailing ask@berkshirecarershub.org.

Respite care

When it comes to self care, it is not unusual for a carer to feel they are being selfish if they think about their own needs, but if you are putting in 50-60+ hours a week looking after someone, you do need to think about giving yourself a break. Whether you want to go on a holiday or simply take a break to recharge your batteries, there is respite care available.

The importance of being able to take some time away from your charge cannot be underestimated. According to a survey carried out by the Carers Trust, carers providing more than 50 hours of care per week are twice as likely to report ill-health as those not providing care. There should be no guilt involved in taking the time to look after yourself and it enables you to provide the best care you can.

This is a guest blog from Rebecca Clarke, freelance writer from The Writers' Guild.

Marisa's Story

Written on: 4-11-2019

Reading mum Marisa Bueno contracted flu last Christmas and not only did it ruin her family's festivities, it floored her for weeks afterwards.

Her 12 year old son got it first during a trip to see family in Spain, and because it is so contagious, it quickly spread to Marisa, her brother and 75 year old mother.

They suffered fever up to 40°C, joint and back pain and strong persistent coughs.

"At the peak of it we were unable to leave bed or have any solid food, only fluids. Even staying in bed was not particularly comfortable as we had both shivering and sweating and didn't sleep well,"

These serious symptoms dragged on for eight days and were followed by post flu symptoms of extreme tiredness which lasted for another three weeks, during which Marisa contracted a chest infection linked to the flu.

"I was 42 at the time, fit and well with a good healthy lifestyle and had no reason to believe I was particularly prone to flu and I was surprised how both my brother (40) and I, went down really quickly with the illness and took such a long time to recover.

"The illness clearly doesn't discriminate by age. Everyone in my family from the ages of 12 to 76 was affected. I can imagine how hard this could impact someone who had pre-existing health conditions or compromised immune systems."

"By experiencing first-hand what the virus can do to young and fit individuals, I can see how entire populations were decimated by it before vaccinations and antibiotics became widely available. It is important not to think that the illness is now less lethal than it was in the past.

"After we had overcome our flu we heard from one of our neighbours, that her mum, also in her 70s had passed away from complications brought up by the virus. It can still happen in this day which is why I think it is so important people take a flu jab."

The annual flu vaccination programme saves thousands of lives every year, and reduces GP consultations, hospital admissions and pressure on A and E.

NHS seasonal flu eligibility criteria:

  • all children aged two to ten (but not eleven years or older on the 31 August 2019)
  • aged six months to 65 years in clinical risk groups
  • pregnant women
  • people aged 65 years and over
  • people in long-stay residential care homes
  • carers
  • social care and hospice workers
  • close contacts of immunocompromised individuals

If you are in one of the NHS eligible groups, book in for a free flu vaccination from your GP or chemist, or if pregnant you may be able to get it through maternity services. Two and three year olds can get their flu vaccination from the GP. School age children can get their flu vaccination from school or if home educated, from the the children's immunization team.

Find out more about who should have a flu vaccination.


Providing practical and friendly support for children and adults who have lost their sight

Written on: 29-8-2019

Berkshire Vision

Every day in the UK, 250 people start to lose their sight and more than two million are living with sight loss. At least half of sight loss is avoidable: cataracts are treatable and if detected and treated early some sight loss due to glaucoma and age-related Macular Degeneration could be avoided.

Berkshire Vision provides practical and friendly support to hundreds of children and adults who are blind or partially sighted. There are many causes of sight loss from those born blind, to those who lose their sight during childhood or young adulthood to those affected by Macular Degeneration later in life.

Learning you have lost or are losing your sight can be frightening and leave those affected isolated. Berkshire Vision helps those living with sight loss and their families to live their lives to the full, safely and independently.

Berkshire Vision helps to boost self-esteem and confidence through the services they provide:

  • Home visiting. Home visitors provide practical and friendly support; a listening ear to talk about coming to terms with sight loss, linking with partners for advice on benefits, information about the resources and technology available to help with everyday tasks and help identifying and accessing things to do in the local community.

  • Children and family support. From tactile and sensory animal days, pizza making parties, to trips to the pantomime and LEGOLAND. Berkshire Vision provides support for all the family: children and young people affected by sight loss, their parents and their sighted siblings. 

  • 18-35s plus. This age group really benefits from peer support and being together, sharing experiences and making friends with people of the same age living with sight loss. They enjoy visits to the pub planning their next activity, from trips to London to meals out.

  • Social Clubs. Across the county Berkshire Vision has eight clubs meeting at least monthly which provide friendship, information and support. The charity has two mini buses which help with transport to and from the social clubs.

  • Sport. Exercise is good for everyone, for mental and physical health and none more so than if you are visually impaired. Berkshire Vision has a sports programme for all ages, abilities and sight loss, from tandem cycling, fishing, swimming, running, dragon boating, tennis and many more.

  • Out and about. Many of us take visits to the theatre or a boat trip for granted, if you've lost your sight it's not always easy to get out and about. Berkshire Vision offer a wide variety of activities from West End theatre trips, museum visits, days out at the seaside and many more. Where possible activities involve audio description and or a sensory experience.

  • Resources. Berkshire Vision is equipped with resources to help make life a little easier when you've lost your sight: from technology that reads out the local newspaper to a liquid level indicator that helps to safely make a cup of tea. Berkshire Vision works closely with RNIB and Guide Dogs and signposts to their complementary support when needed.

Berkshire Vision would welcome hearing from you.   If you would like to invite them in to talk to your community group, workplace, school or college about eye health and the valuable work they do supporting the visually impaired in Berkshire, please get in touch.

Health and Wellbeing Board
Health and Wellbeing Board
  Posted on behalf of the West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board

Summer Fun in West Berkshire

Written on: 2-8-2019

Fun and Low Cost Activities

Summer's here - so it's a fine time to get out and about while it's warm and the days are long.

There's a whole host of free and low cost activities across West Berkshire, and there's something for all ages to enjoy, not just during the summer months, but all year round.

They include free football for 11 to 19 year olds at Kennet Muga Pitch and free aquatic play at Victoria Park, Newbury.

There's also fun and games at Shaw House and West Berkshire Museum.

Look out for the Green Bags which include equipment for kwik cricket, badminton and hockey and also the craft events at West Berkshire Libraries.

The area's award winning parks and open spaces - such as Donnington Castle and The Ridgeway are great places for picnics, walks and cycle paths and the Activity Team West Berkshire have a host of programmes lined up for land and water activities. 

Walking for Health lay on regular led-walks for people of all abilities, and there's the Nature Discovery Centre which runs inspiring and educational events throughout the year for everyone to enjoy.

This pdf icon guide [1Mb] gives more details of many of the above and other activities.

There are a lot of other activities you may like to look into which are all geared to getting people up and active. Research shows being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life because it boosts self esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as cutting your risk of stress, depression, dementia including Alzheimer's.

It can also reduce the risk of major illnesses like heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50 per cent, and lower your risk of early death by up to 30 per cent. Find out more about the benefits of exercise.

You might be interested in the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

  • pdf icon Activity for Health [870kb] offers classes designed to help people either manage or recover from an existing health condition or to help those at risk of developing one.

Get Berkshire Active has a guide called "Right For Me ..." which suggests activities to match ability.

And there's more useful ideas at :

Berkshire Walkers

West Berkshire Ramblers

Hungerford Virtual Museum

Walking, Cycling and Horse Riding - Maps and Open Access Land

And check out Change 4 Life Activities for children.

Interakt offers a series of summer sessions for youngsters aged 16 plus with learning difficulties. These include athletics, singing, drama, DJ and cricket and they run on certain days in July and August at a cost of £50.

Health and Wellbeing Board
Health and Wellbeing Board
  Posted on behalf of the West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board

Help to combat the misery of loneliness

Written on: 17-6-2019

Jo Cox - The Great Get Together

Research has shown that one in ten visits to GPs by older people are due to loneliness and, in an ageing population like West Berkshire, the growing problem of dispersed families adds to the problem. This all has an impact on the cost of adult social care as more people struggle with the poor physical and mental health implications linked to loneliness and isolation.

Community cohesion can be achieved in small ways with village halls becoming community hubs for lunch clubs, parent and toddler groups, after school clubs, film nights, book and DVD exchanges.

Volunteer drivers in the Community Minibus and Community Car Schemes - there are ten in West Berkshire - also provide vital support for people with mobility difficulties or those with anxiety issues which make them reluctant to go out on their own.

You may have seen the red Handybuses running around West Berkshire. There are five operators of community transport schemes: Hungerford CHAIN Handybus, Newbury and Thatcham Handybus, Downlands Handybus, Burghfield and Mortimer Handbybus and Theale Care Bus.

There's also a host of volunteering opportunities aimed at supporting older people. Volunteers receive training and ongoing support and keeping an eye on older people needn't become a burdensome duty. In fact many volunteers feel they benefit as much as the people they are helping.

The Befriending Service is operated by Volunteer Centre West Berkshire and financially supported by West Berkshire Council Adult Social Care. Trained befrienders are carefully matched to befriendees who have been referred to the charity for support. They usually visit their clients once a week for a cuppa, chat or trip out. They don't help with personal care or financial matters.  Find out about other befriending services on the West Berkshire Directory.

Village Agents in West Berkshire are volunteers trained as community navigators helping to overcome social isolation.

Take a look at theVolunteer Centre West Berkshire website for more information. If you're looking for local services try the West Berkshire Directory

Of course, it's not just older people who need regular social interaction and the chance to make new friends. And there's the chance to do just that at the annual Jo Cox Great Get Togethers taking place locally on Sunday 23 June.  In memory of the murdered MP, Jo Cox, the Great Get Together aims at bring communities together for a big community lunch or party to celebrate all the things that unite people and make neighbourhoods friendlier and stronger places. 

The local events are The Parish Tea Party, 2.30-5.30pm at Donnington Recreation Ground, Donnington, RG14 2LD and the Great Hermitage Get Together afternoon tea which runs from 2pm-5pm at Hermitage Village Hall, RG18 9RL, all are welcome!

These events are open to anyone and there's more details on the Shaw-cum-Donnington community website.

Another vital service for local people seeking support or advice on where to turn for help is the Patient Information Point (PIP) at the West Berkshire Community Hospital.  They are holding their AGM on Wednesday 26 June at the hospital at 7:30pm and all are welcome. The guest speaker will be Carolyn Taylor a SEAP (Support, Empower, Advocate, Promote) Advocate who will talk about her work with the independent advocacy in West Berkshire. This is a charity providing free independent and confidential advocacy services. If you would like to attend, please contact PIP.

Health and Wellbeing Board
Health and Wellbeing Board
 Posted on behalf of the West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board


Who To Contact

Contact details for West Berkshire's Public Health and Wellbeing Team

01635 503437