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New emergency services app launches for users of British Sign Language

Local charity Merseyside Society Deaf People (MSDP) hosted a party in partnership with Deafness Resource Centre for the Merseyside Deaf Community on Friday 17th June to celebrate the launch of 999 BSL, the UK’s first ever Video Relay Service (VRS) connecting Deaf people to the emergency services (police, ambulance, fire and coastguard) via a remote British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter.

A Merseyside Police Officer, Jo Parr from MSDP and John Stewart from Sign Video pose for the launch of the 999 BSL app

The new service, which will be provided by interpreting and communication support provider Sign Language Interactions, officially launched as an app (iOS and Android) and web-based platform on 17th June. The service, funded by private telecoms companies, will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and will be completely free of charge to Deaf users.

While a text relay service already exists, video relay will enable Deaf callers across the UK to make video calls to the emergency services in their own language – British Sign Language – for the first time ever, without needing to use English or ask a hearing person to make a call to 999 on their behalf.

This is another major milestone in improving access for the estimated 90,000 Deaf people in the UK, following the recent historic decision by Parliament to recognise British Sign Language as a language of Great Britain for the first time. The British Sign Language (BSL) Act passed into law on Thursday 28th April 2022 after decades of campaigning by the Deaf community.

The 999 BSL launch party has been funded by a generous grant from Deaf health charity SignHealth.

Janice Connolly, Community Liaison Officer for MSDP said: “We are delighted to support the launch of the first Deaf accessible 999 service.  The Deaf Community has campaigned for years for equal access to vital services and to have access in our first language is amazing.”

“An emergency situation can be a matter of life or death, particularly for our Community who don’t routinely have access to mainstream services because of our communication needs. This service means independence and equality.  It means Deaf people do not have to rely on hearing neighbours or their hearing children to make a 999 call.”

Abigail Gorman, SignHealth said: “This is a breakthrough for Deaf people that will save lives and means one more step forward towards equality. We won’t be satisfied until Deaf people have full and equal access, particularly to life-saving health services.”

To find out more about the 999 BSL service, including a demonstration video, FAQs and guidance on how to download the app and use the web platform, visit:

Have you booked your cervical screening test?

This Cervical Screening Week (20-26 June), NHS professionals in Sefton are encouraging everyone who is eligible to get their cervical screening test as soon as they are invited.

All women and people with a cervix, aged 25 to 64, are invited to have a cervical screening test to help reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer affects around 3,000 people in the UK every year. The cervical screening test detects human papillomavirus (HPV) and signs of early abnormal cells, which can turn into cervical cancer if not treated.

Dr Debbie Harvey, Macmillan GP at NHS South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Those aged 25 to 49 are offered screening every three years and 50 to 64 year olds are every five years. When it’s time for your next screening, you should be sent a letter inviting you to make an appointment.

“Almost 1 in 3 people don’t go for their cervical screening test but it is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from the risk of cervical cancer.

“The test only takes 5 minutes and your nurse or doctor is there to make you feel comfortable and help you with any questions you might have.”

Dr Graeme Allan, Macmillan GP and primary care cancer lead at NHS Southport and Formby CCG, said: “The screening test significantly reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer so it’s really important to make an appointment when invited.

“If you are aged 25 to 64 and think you’re overdue your cervical screening test, contact your GP practice.”

Eligible patients who are registered at a local GP practice will receive an invitation letter in the post with information about how to book their cervical screening appointment.

Patients are also advised that if they become aware of any of the following symptoms before their next cervical screening test is due, to not wait to be screened, but to get in touch with their GP practice or community sexual health clinic:

  • unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • pain or discomfort during intercourse
  • unexplained pain in your lower tummy

Sefton residents can also book their screening test during evenings or weekends, via the GP Extra service in south Sefton or the 7 day GP service in Southport and Formby. These evening and weekend appointments can be booked by calling the patient’s own GP practice.

For more information on cervical cancer and what the screening test involves, please visit:

To find out more about what to expect at your cervical screening appointment, watch this video: 

Cervical Screening Awareness Week is an event run by national cervical cancer charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

During the week they are also encouraging people to share their tips and experiences, and positive messages about screening online. You can find tips and stories by following the hashtags #CervicalScreeningTip and #CervicalScreeningAwarenessWeek on social media, or following the charity on Twitter: @JoTrust or Instagram: @JosCervicalCancerTrust.

Beating the heat in Sefton

Person in sunglasses and sunhatNHS and council leaders in Sefton are advising residents to keep cool this summer, by planning ahead and taking precautions to ‘beat the heat’ while enjoying the sunshine.

With warmer weather forecast across the UK, healthcare professionals are reminding everyone to be aware of the risks of hot weather and to take extra care of themselves and others.

Top tips

Their top tips for keeping safe in the sun include:

  • Staying hydrated: drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol.
  • Physical activity: avoid extreme physical exertion or keep it for cooler parts of the day like early morning or evening.
  • Keep your environment cool: use curtains or blinds to keep your home cool, or find the coolest part of your home, garden or outdoor space to sit in.
  • Travelling: ensure that babies, children, older people or animals are not left in closed, parked vehicles which can quickly overheat.
  • Enjoy the water safely: going for a swim can help you cool down but take care and follow local safety advice if you are going into water.
  • Avoid sunburn: try to keep out of the sun at the hottest part of the day, between 11am and 3pm.
  • Protect yourself: apply sunscreen of at least SPF15 with UVA protection, wear UV sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and loose-fitting clothes.

Keep cool and protect ourselves

Martin McDowell, deputy chief officer at NHS South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Southport and Formby CCG, said: ““The advice might sound like common sense, but it’s good to remind ourselves to keep cool and protect ourselves, our family and friends.

“At a time when NHS services are still under pressure, taking precautions to keep ourselves safe in the sun will mean that urgent care services are kept available for those who need them most.

Margaret Jones, Sefton Council’s Director of Public Health said: “Everyone loves to enjoy the great British summer, but it’s important to remember that hot weather can pose health risks for some people.

“Remember to keep an eye on any friends, family or neighbours who may be more vulnerable to the heat, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions and very young children.”

During the hot weather, residents are also encouraged to seek medical if they need it by contacting NHS 111 online at  or by calling 111 to help them reach the best NHS service for their need.

To find out about the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke and when to get help, visit: NHS Live Well.

Tackling loneliness in Sefton this Mental Health Awareness Week

Leaders in Sefton are aiming to break the stigma of loneliness during Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May), by encouraging residents to open up and talk about their experiences of loneliness and how it impacts their mental health.

Long-term loneliness is closely linked to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and isolation from loved ones. The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard for many people and those with mental health issues have seen them worsen over the last year or so. Often people feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about feelings of loneliness and how it is affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

Local leaders from Sefton Council and the NHS in Sefton are using Mental Health Awareness Week as an opportunity to encourage conversations around loneliness. They are taking to social media using the hashtag #SeftonInMind to share information on support services in Sefton that are available to all residents to support them with their mental health, feelings of loneliness, or to offer a listening ear to anyone who just needs to talk.

Fiona Taylor, chief officer of NHS South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Southport and Formby CCG, said:

“Now more than ever, many of us may recognise the feelings of loneliness and isolation, but the NHS and our support services in Sefton are here to help our residents during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond.

“We may feel embarrassed to talk about our feelings but it’s time to break the stigma and start the conversation. You’d be surprised when you open up to others, how often you will hear ‘I’ve been there’.”

Cllr Ian Moncur, cabinet member for health and wellbeing said:

“If you’ve been feeling lonely and your mental health is suffering, you are not alone. This week is a great opportunity to reach out and talk to a friend or family member, or get help from one of our support services in Sefton.

“We can also all help to tackle loneliness in our local areas by reaching out to those who may be at more risk of isolation, such as elderly people, unpaid carers and those in our LGBTQ+ community. Just starting a conversation can really help to lift someone’s spirits and give some much needed social connection.”

To find information on mental health support services in Sefton during Mental Health Awareness Week, you can search for the hashtag #SeftonInMind or follow the Sefton Council, NHS South Sefton CCG, and NHS Southport and Formby CCG social media channels.

You can also find a list of mental health support services for adults in Sefton at: or mental health support service for children and young people at:

Mental Health Awareness Week is organised every year by the Mental Health Foundation as an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health. Find out more about the event at:

Getting healthcare help in Sefton this May Bank Holiday

photo of a pharmacist and shelves of medicationsAs residents in Sefton make plans for the May bank holiday, NHS leaders are sharing advice for getting healthcare help should you become unwell.

Services like pharmacies, walk in centres and GP practices may not be open on bank holiday Monday (2nd May), so residents are advised to plan ahead to know how to get the help they need.

Think 111 first

People who need urgent NHS care, but it is not a 999 emergency, are advised to contact NHS 111 which is staffed by trained professionals and clinicians who will direct people to the most appropriate health service.

Dr Rob Caudwell, chair of NHS Southport and Formby CCG, said: “If you’re feeling unwell, there is always help and advice available from NHS 111, even on bank holidays they are there to help you.

“We should all remember to ‘think 111 first’ – you can visit online or call 111 over the phone to get healthcare support.”

Have you got your prescriptions?

Residents are also advised to make sure they have enough supply of any medications they need by ordering their repeat prescriptions early, and getting their medicine cabinet stocked up with essentials.

Dr Pete Chamberlain, chair of NHS South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Pharmacies may change their opening hours on bank holiday Monday, so it’s best to think ahead and get your prescriptions stocked up early on to avoid being left short.

“Your local pharmacy can also help you to stock up on essential medicines for common ailments and injuries. They are highly qualified and can give free, confidential advice on many healthcare concerns.”

Grab a jab

COVID-19 vaccinations are available for 5-11 year olds and NHS leaders in Sefton are recommending that parents and guardians get their children vaccinated as soon as they are able, to boost their immunity and increase their protection against the disease. Children aged 5-11 with no underlying health conditions will be offered two paediatric (child) doses of the vaccine, which are smaller doses than those given to people aged 12 and over.

Anyone looking to book a COVID-19 vaccine for themselves or their children over the bank holiday weekend is advised to find a nearby appointment by calling 119 or visit the National Booking Service website at:

Bookable appointments are available at a range of locations in Sefton, but residents can also find opening times for nearby walk in vaccine sites by visiting, to get their vaccine with no appointment needed.

May Bank Holiday pharmacy opening times

A number of pharmacies are open on Monday 2 May. Opening times for these pharmacies can be found in the link below, but residents are advised to call their local pharmacy before travelling, to confirm that they are open at the advertised times. Information will be added to the links as more opening times come into the CCGs.

Residents can find the pharmacy times here   

Residents can also find lots of healthcare advice and services in the Sefton good health checklist, which you can view online at:


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