AS the long nights draw in and temperatures drop, doctors are encouraging people to get the free flu vaccination to avoid the winter illness.

Dr Andrew Girdher, a GP at Box Surgery who had the flu last year, is encouraging those who need the vaccination, to have it. He said: "For the first time last winter I felt what it was like to experience flu and having a flu jab is definitely on my list of 'must dos' at the moment.

“Flu certainly knocked me for six – I had to take five days off work, the first time in 25 years, and I missed the surgery Christmas party. I'm someone who is very fit and active but once I got sick, I was physically unable to get out of my house, even getting out of bed was a challenge.

“People owe it to themselves to get a flu jab before winter, to protect their own health but also to protect the health of their family, work colleagues and friends from the debilitating effects of the flu.

“I also urge all patient-facing workers in health and social care to ensure they get a flu vaccination to reduce the risk to themselves and their patients this winter.” On average, flu kills around 8,000 people a year in England.

People who are eligible for a free flu vaccination include adults aged over 65, adults with long term conditions such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, heart, kidney or liver disease or those who have had a stroke and pregnant women. Children aged two to three and children in school years 1-5 can also receive a vaccination as well as carers and health and social care workers. People can get their flu jab from a GP practice, or pharmacy and should call 111 if they feel really unwell and think they might already have flu.