Category: Health

The British Red Cross supports health and social care projects around the UK. From helping people home from hospital to supporting people to feel less lonely, we can help.

Supporting the social prescribing revolution

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A British Red Cross volunteer and a person taking part in our loneliness service sit on a park bench smiling and arm-in-arm.

On Social Prescribing Day, I’ve been reflecting on how the past few years have seen a step change in how we think about health. Meeting people’s social, emotional and practical needs is increasingly seen as just as important as treating their medical ones.

It’s hard to imagine that even five years ago, government and the NHS would promote non-clinical approaches to enduring health issues, let alone invest millions into social prescribing initiatives.

Today, they are recruiting thousands of social prescribing link workers to support GPs and other healthcare professionals. These link workers will help meet people’s emotional and practical needs by growing their confidence and connecting them into new opportunities in the community.

We know from our own services tackling loneliness and supporting tens of thousands of people home from hospital each year that connecting people back into their communities and a personalised care approach isn’t just a nice-to-have. Always asking ‘what matters to you’ is essential if we want to improve health and wellbeing outcomes.

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Coronavirus Q&A – what is it and how can you keep safe?

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A series of drawings showing how to wash your hands effectively to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

© IFRC

With coronavirus making headlines around the world, here are some useful facts to keep yourself safe and healthy.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus, now also called Covid-19, affects the respiratory system causing coughing and fever. Symptoms can be very mild, such as a minor cough, or you can have flu-like symptoms. This can progress to pneumonia with shortness of breath and breathing problems.

The outbreak started in Wuhan, China and coronavirus has not been seen in humans before.

How do you know if you have coronavirus?

Having a cough, high temperature and shortness of breath does not necessarily mean you have coronavirus.

Many other much more common illnesses, such as colds and flu, have similar symptoms.

If you think you’ve been exposed and experience symptoms, you should contact NHS online 111 and follow their advice.

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Radioactive: Marie Curie, invisible light, the Red Cross and WWI

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Marie Curie, played by Rosamund Pike in Radioactive, in her lab.

Marie Curie, played by Rosamund Pike in Radioactive, in her lab

In October 1914, Marie Curie and her daughter, Irène, were driving a rickety van near a First World War battlefield in France.

The two women were surrounded by the military – soldiers, officers, medics and the wounded. But they were meant to be there. Just two months after the war started, Marie had convinced the French government to set up the country’s first military radiology centres. She was soon named director of the Red Cross Radiology Service in France.

Their van was the world’s first specially fitted mobile x-ray unit, and marked the first time x-rays were taken for medical use outside of a hospital.

By the end of the war, each of the 20 mobile x-ray vans – known by soldiers as petites Curies (little Curies) had x-rayed up to 10,000 men. The quick information they gave the battlefield medics saved thousands of lives.

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It’s time to listen to young people, like me, on loneliness

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Rhianydd Crawshaw, a university student who felt lonely and felt better after volunteering at a British Red Cross book shop, smiles at the camera.

© Rhianydd Crawshaw

 

When Rhianydd, a 22-year-old student, experienced loneliness, she turned to volunteering for the British Red Cross to find friends and feel more connected. Now, she wants people in power to take this issue seriously.

I’ve always been an introverted person, and I really like my own space. But I also do really like talking and hanging out with people, I guess you could call me an “ambivert”.

During my first year at university, I couldn’t drink alcohol due to medication I was taking at the time, so I didn’t go out and I tended to avoid situations where heavy alcohol consumption would be present. And, during freshers week – that’s a lot!

I’m not saying that was the only reason I was lonely or struggled to make many friends at university, but it was definitely a contributing factor. This led to me spending most of my time alone locked up in my room not talking to anyone. I was miserable.

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Small acts of kindness become powerful when tackling loneliness

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A British Red Cross loneliness volunteer and an older man stand in a doorway, smiling.

@Simon Rawles/British Red Cross

As we head into the New Year, and with a new government, it feels like the right time to reflect on how far we have come with tackling loneliness in the UK. We know it continues to be one of the biggest public health crises of our times and its effect is especially important during the festive season.

At the British Red Cross, we see through our services up and down the country how Christmas can be an especially difficult time for people who are living with loneliness. Nonetheless, the good news is that together with our partners, we are making big steps towards a less lonely year in 2020.

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I knew how to help my daughter when she was choking

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When Gemma’s two-year-old daughter was choking on a plastic brick, she knew what to do and acted quickly. Here, Gemma recalls what happened, and how a video she’d seen on Facebook helped her save her daughter.

Choking is very common with young children and is a frightening thing for any parent to have to face. But if it should happen, knowing the simple skills to help can make all the difference.

When my two-year-old daughter, Seven, started choking, I remembered a British Red Cross first aid video that I’d recently watched on Facebook and immediately knew what to do.

It was a normal morning and I was at home with my five children.

Suddenly, my eldest daughter, Boo, shouted upstairs that her little sister, Seven, was choking.

I rushed downstairs and when I got halfway down, I saw Seven and could see that she wasn’t breathing.

Her eyes were out like dinner plates, her chest wasn’t moving and she wasn’t making any noise at all.

I suppose I always thought that when someone was choking it would be noisy, but she was just silent.

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Make your wheelchair the reason you’re fit – not the excuse

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Jordan Jarrett-Bryan plays wheelchair basketball.

Jordan Jarrett-Bryan in action

Jordan Jarrett-Bryan is a former Paralympic GB wheelchair basketball player and sports reporter, Channel 4 News

I struggle to remember a time when I wasn’t active. I’ve always been into sport or at least physical activity, mainly because I’ve always been a hyperactive and competitive person.

Running, jumping, playing football, basketball, rounders: all were things I did daily when I was a boy. It was a huge cause of being an active and healthy young boy, but more importantly a happy boy.

I was nowhere near the fastest in my class at primary school – I remember running made me the happiest, though. As someone with a disability, I can also remember not ever being too conscious about the fact I had an artificial leg.

There may have been times, it may have been uncomfortable, but I refused to not take part in sports.

I don’t use a wheelchair for everyday use, but getting used to one when I first started playing wheelchair basketball was weirdly liberating.

Playing a sport without running and jumping was different, but I was still fast, powerful, moving. Active. It joined two of three most important elements of sports – winning, health and enjoyment.

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How tackling loneliness at its core could reduce the burden on public services

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A man sits alone at an empty table in his kitchen with a hot drink. He has been helped by the British Red Cross loneliness service.

© Simon Rawles/British Red Cross

Zoë Abrams is Executive Director of Communications at British Red Cross and Co-chair of the Loneliness Action Group

At the Red Cross, we believe that connected communities are most resilient and able to withstand crisis. In these times of political uncertainty, it is positive to see the new civil society minister prioritising building more resilient communities.

With an astonishing one in five people in the UK saying they feel often or always lonely, this is a huge issue. The negative impacts are not only felt by individuals who are lacking meaningful connections, but it also influences the wider health and wellbeing of communities.

Through our leadership of the Loneliness Action Group  – a network of over 50 civil society organisations and businesses  – we’ve worked in partnership with the UK government and held them to account for the commitments they’ve made to tackle this modern epidemic.

It’s in that spirit that we have today published a report on progress made against the government’s loneliness strategy.

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