A flu immunisation programme is due to start at the beginning of October.

Free influenza vaccinations will be offered to people with health conditions, who are at greater risk from the effects of flu, including those people with conditions such as heart problems, emphysema, diabetes or liver or kidney disease.

The free vaccination is also being offered to children aged two to five years old and primary school pupils, those aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, and health and social care workers.

Letters will shortly be sent out to remind those eligible to make an appointment at their local GP practice.

Letters will be issued by local GP practices and patients should contact their local practice to make a suitable appointment. In line with the new GP contract and primary care reform, vaccinations will now be carried out by community nurses within GP Practices rather than by practice nurses.

Flu is a very infectious disease which can have serious consequences and can be fatal. Those who have chronic conditions should ensure that they are immunised again with this year’s vaccine.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, said: “Flu can cause severe health complications and the influenza vaccination remains the best defence against the virus.

“We want everyone in the Western Isles who is at greater risk from the dangers of flu to be protected. The immunisation is safe, and provides protection for up to a year. It only takes a few minutes and even if you were immunised against flu last winter it is important to receive the vaccine again, as the viruses change each season.”

Primary pupils throughout the islands will be offered the flu vaccination administered by the local school nursing team during October and November.

Pupils take the vaccine in the form of a nasal spray, avoiding the need for an injection, and consent forms will be sent to all primary pupils, with parents and carers urged to return consent and ensure their child is protected against flu this winter.

Children aged two (on September 1 2019) to five years old are also offered a free flu immunisation – again taken as a pain-free nasal spray – and will be invited to their local GP practice for vaccination.

Pregnant women are more at risk of flu-related complications and need extra protection as flu infection during pregnancy can be very harmful both to mother and baby.

The flu vaccine is safe for baby and mother at any stage of pregnancy, and pregnant women across the Western Isles will be offered the flu vaccination by their midwife.