Tend To Your Green Fingers


With the gardening season now starting to bud, it’s time to get your protective kit together. Here are my staples:

  • Avoid cold feet and/or blisters with Workforce Wellington Boot Socks, £8 from sockshop.co.uk. Find a range of waterproof socks at sealskinz.com, eg, the Thick Mid Length Sock, £35.
  • Protect hands and nails with gloves and a barrier cream such as Gloves In A Bottle, £5.15 for 60ml from victoriahealth.com, or Mastic Care Hand Cream for dry, cracked hands, £9.95 for 100ml from skinshop.co.uk.
  • Take the edge off aches and pains with a copper bracelet. I swear by my Band4Hope copper and zinc bracelet, £15 from band4hope.com (with the proceeds going to charity).
  • Also try Weleda Muscular Pain Relief Oromucosal Spray, a homeopathic oral treatment that has helped me hugely. £9.95 from weleda.co.uk.
  • Take a hot bath with a scoop of Epsom Salts. £1.49 for 200g from boots.com.
  • For instant topical relief, spritz on Magnesium Oil Original Spray. £12.30 from victoriahealth.com.
  • If any of your aches and pains linger, consider consulting a qualified chiropractor (chiropractic-uk.co.uk) or osteopath (osteopathy.org.uk).

Q My mother has significant hearing loss but our GP is not very helpful. We have been told first-hand about vulnerable people being targeted by private hearing-aid companies. What can we do to access the right support for her through the NHS?

A Age-related hearing loss affects about 40 per cent of people over 50, and 70 per cent of the over-70s. The earlier the problem is confronted, the better, as it may take time to be assessed, then to adjust to wearing a hearing aid.

Typically it takes ten years for sufferers to ask for help. ‘Because it’s gradual, people may not realise it’s happening. They turn up the TV or ask for things to be repeated until family or friends suggest getting a hearing check,’ says audiologist Gemma Twitchen.

Consult your GP first. Sadly, deafness is often neglected at primary care level. In one survey, 45 per cent of participants reported hearing loss to their GPs but were not referred for a hearing test or aid.

Action on Hearing Loss (AoHL) offers an initial hearing check – you can do this over the phone (0844 800 3838) or online (hearinglosscheck.org). You can also call the AoHL help team on 0808 808 0123.

Taking the results of this test to your GP may be helpful. They should check any temporary causes of hearing loss (eg, build-up of wax or infection). If there is no obvious cause, you should be referred to a specialist. AoHL says, ‘You may have to insist [but] you have the right to have your hearing tested.’

Patients are referred to a hospital ENT (ear, nose and throat) clinic or an audiology department. Audiology clinics may be available at some GP surgeries. In some areas, private audiology services offer free NHS hearing services under the AQP (Any Qualified Provider) scheme.

Sales people for private companies may not divulge the AQP option. Find local providers under ‘Locate and rate hearing services’ on the AoHL website (click on ‘NHS Services’).

NHS providers offer everything for free, including tests and assessments, hearing aids, batteries and follow-up appointments.

Private companies may charge many thousands. The initial test might be free, but after that the costs can mount, as you have to pay for replacements, batteries and any repairs after the warranty expires.

All aids come from the same manufacturers, but going private may be quicker than the NHS. You can find a range of helpful fact sheets at actiononhearingloss.org.uk.


‘Everybody should do a first aid course, and regular updates,’ advises GP Rob Hicks (drrobhicks.co.uk). ‘Having a good manual is sensible, too.’ Courses are run by St John Ambulance (sja.org.uk) and online at firstaidforlife.org.uk; the tenth edition of the First Aid Manual (Dorling Kindersley, £13.99*) is available now.

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