People urged to do their bit to protect the NHS as covid cases rise in hospitals

People across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are being urged to do their bit to protect their local NHS, now under intense pressure as rising numbers are hospitalised with Covid-19.

With many NHS staff themselves off sick or self-isolating, non-urgent hospital appointments and operations are being postponed to ensure that treatment for critical physical and mental health conditions can continue.

To help this effort, everyone is being asked to:

  • Stay at home as much as possible, follow Hands, Face, Space when outside, and use services appropriately.
  • This includes calling ‘111 First’ for any urgent but not life-threatening medical issues, and staying away from Emergency Departments with minor illnesses or injuries.
  • Be ready to support family and loved ones home as soon as they are medically fit to leave hospital.

Dr Geeta Iyer, a local GP and clinical lead at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said:

“Hundreds of people, young and old, are now severely unwell with Covid-19 in our local hospitals wards and intensive care units – and this is only likely to worsen until the full effects of the lockdown kick in.

“Like the rest of the country, our services and staff are now under intense strain and across our entire health and care system we’re doing everything we can to keep caring for those with the most urgent and critical conditions.

“Just this week, senior nursing staff have begun triaging people arriving at our Emergency Departments, and redirecting them to alternatives such as minor injuries units and GP practices where those are more appropriate.

“Because of the rigorous infection control measures now in place, we have less space in our hospitals than we did before. Unless it’s a serious or life-threatening situation, anyone thinking of visiting the Emergency Department should click or call 111 First – we have clinical staff on-hand to ensure you get to the most appropriate urgent care service first time.

“Our message to the local population is clear: if you are in need of care, the NHS is here for you – but we all have a responsibility to protect it by using services appropriately and doing our bit to reduce transmission of the virus.”

The NHS, community services and social care services are also working together to rapidly discharge patients safely from hospitals, supported by an innovative ‘Covid Virtual Ward’ scheme.

People with Covid-19 that fall into high-risk groups are being given devices to monitor their blood oxygen levels from home. The scheme launched in December and is currently deploying up to 3,000 devices to local people across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Prime Minister visits Bristol super-vaccination centre

The opening of Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium as a super-vaccination centre was marked by the visit of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The centre, which opened on Monday 11 January 2021, is one of seven mass vaccination centres across the UK. Once fully operational, it will be delivering thousands of vaccinations each day.

The Prime Minister was shown round the facility and spoke with healthcare professionals running the centre as well as local people receiving their first vaccine.

The Ashton Gate facility will continue to focus on vaccinating people over 80 years' old as well as supporting the vaccination of frontline health and care staff.

Watch this video to see the Ashton Gate vaccination centre and what you can expect there:

While the opening of the vaccination centre means the NHS will be able to ramp up its vaccination efforts, it will still take some time to reach everyone who needs to be vaccinated. The NHS will be in touch when it is your turn.

Read more about local vaccination for Covid-19.


COVID-19: Super-vaccination centre opens in Bristol

The roll-out of local Covid-19 vaccinations has been expanded with the opening of a vaccination centre at Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium.

The centre adds to vaccinations already being carried out at local hospitals and General Practice Primary Care Networks sites.

Dr Tim Whittlestone, Clinical Lead for the NHS vaccination programme in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, said: “We are delighted to be able to take the next step in our vaccination roll-out by opening the Ashton Gate facility and welcoming people for their jabs.

“Once fully operational, staff at the facility will be able to vaccinate thousands of people each day, building on the outstanding work our local GP services and hospitals have been doing over recent weeks to ensure our most vulnerable people receive the vaccine.

“Although the introduction of the centre is a welcome boost in the face of rising Covid-19 cases, our hospitals and staff are facing significant pressures and we must each take a personal responsibility to help stop the spread of this deadly virus. Please continue to follow national lockdown guidance, and remember ‘Hands, Face, Space’ when you do leave home.”

Christina Gray, Director of Public Health for Bristol, said: “It is fantastic news that COVID-19 vaccinations begin at Ashton Gate stadium today. This is a very positive step in the fight against COVID-19 and will provide protection to some of our city’s most vulnerable and high risk residents.

“We continue to support the NHS with the vaccine rollout across Bristol, in line with the national prioritisation programme and strongly encourage those who are invited to get the vaccine, to do so as soon as possible.

“However, now is not the time to become complacent. The new strain of the virus is much more infectious and we must act now to stop transmission and save lives. Bristol’s rate is currently 478 new cases per 100,000 population, showing cases continue to rise across the city, and across age groups."

The Ashton Gate facility will continue to focus on vaccinating people over 80 as well as supporting the vaccination of front-line health and care staff.

People who book in to a vaccine centre will be greeted by volunteers who will marshal car parks and register them when they arrive. Bookings are staggered to allow social distancing.

They will receive a health status check and a pre-vaccination assessment before they have their jab and then be observed for 15 minutes. The process should take well under an hour.

While the opening of the vaccination centre means the NHS will be able to ramp up its vaccination efforts, it will still take some time to reach everyone who needs to be vaccinated. The NHS will be in touch when it is your turn.

Read more about local vaccination for Covid-19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Ashton Gate super-vaccination facility.

What you can and cannot do during the national lockdown

You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

You should follow this guidance immediately. The law will be updated to reflect these new rules.

Leaving home

You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:

  • shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • attend education or childcare - for those eligible

Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term. Early Years settings remain open.

Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.

If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live. You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as for work.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work.

You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

You should follow this guidance immediately. The law will be updated to reflect these new rules.

Local hospitals boosted by extra diagnostic capacity

The NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) will be able to carry out more diagnostic tests for local people after signing a new 12 month contract with UK Biobank - a large-scale biomedical database and research resource.

On 7 December, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) and North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) joined together to provide up to 150 MRI scans per week for the NHS at UK Biobank’s Filton facility, representing a 15% increase in local diagnostic capacity. The extra capacity comes at a time when hospital services have been significantly impacted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

This extra capacity will focus on less complex scanning, but include specialities such as musculoskeletal and neurological scanning.

The leasing of the Filton imaging assessment centre by the NHS has been achieved through close partnership working between the CCG, UHBW and NBT and will be run in partnership by local staff from both hospital trusts.

Robert Woolley, who is University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive and is overseeing a programme to ensure delivery of rapid and timely diagnostic services for BNSSG, said:

“This is welcome news and a result of the fantastic collaboration between staff working together for the benefit of local people.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on our existing scanning capacity and while we have been working hard to prioritise people most in need, this extra resource will help reduce waiting times for scans.

“We know that early diagnosis is imperative for the successful treatment of many conditions, and therefore continue to remind people that NHS services are available if you have a health concern that you are worried about.”

Gareth Gregory, Chief Finance Officer for UK Biobank, said:

“We are delighted that our new imaging facility will be used to ease some of the pressures faced by the NHS through this difficult period.

“Whilst our multi-organ scanning project is on hold, our skilled team are eager to help increase local scanning capacity to benefit the local people of Bristol and its surrounding region, who have always supported our research very generously.”

UK Biobank’s Filton facility will provide a state of the art resource for people to receive diagnostic tests away from a hospital setting. Systems are linked to those at UHBW and NBT to ensure teams have easy access to the images from the centre. The unit is supported and managed by clinical teams at NBT and UHBW together to ensure that the same excellent service will be received as at the acute hospitals.

No coronavirus patients will be referred to this facility, but the site will continue to operate with strict infection prevention control measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Diagnostic scans will continue at existing UHBW and NBT sites with patients referred to the Filton facility depending on their individual needs.

Life-saving vaccine roll-out to care homes

The local NHS has begun delivering an “early Christmas gift” this week, as care home residents across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire start to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Residents at a number of care homes have been offered the vaccine this week, with the roll-out set to continue into the New Year.

Care home residents and staff are being prioritised along with people aged 80 and above in the first phase of the vaccination programme, the biggest in NHS history.

Dr Neil Kerfoot, a GP in South Gloucestershire, said:

“We are excited to have been able to begin vaccinating residents in their care homes this week.

It’s been a significant logistical challenge to get to the vaccine out to care homes in this way, but by working together we are achieving it. This development will ensure that our most vulnerable are protected from coronavirus.

Family doctors and other primary care staff have well established relationships with care homes and local communities. Our staff have pulled out all the stops to get this going before Christmas, working alongside our care home and Local Authority colleagues.

“The residents our doctors have spoken to this week have been delighted to receive the vaccine and are looking forward to life getting back to normal – although everyone recognises that will take a bit of time and we still need to do everything we can to limit the spread of the virus. ”  

The NHS will contact people in the priority groups when it is their turn to receive the vaccine. There is no need to contact your GP or local hospital.

STOP campaign launched to tackle abuse of staff

“No one should come to work and be shouted and sworn at, it’s not acceptable and has an impact on how you feel for the rest of your shift. It also makes you dread coming into work.”

These are the words of a front-line healthcare professional who has faced abusive behaviour from a patient during the coronavirus pandemic.

They come as part of a new campaign that has been launched to urge people using local health and care services to treat staff with kindness and respect as the pandemic continues.

The STOP campaign highlights the impact that abusive behaviour can have on NHS and social care staff during the course of their work.

It has been launched by local health leaders following concerns that aggressive behaviour is increasing in some health and care settings.

The campaign is being promoted across social media, waiting areas and websites over the coming weeks.

At Sirona care & health, which provides NHS funded community health services, incidents at the Minor Injury Units in Yate and Clevedon and the Urgent Treatment Centre in South Bristol are having a big impact on staff welfare.

Janet Rowse, Chief Executive, Sirona care & health, said:

“We fully understand the anxieties, stress and worry that have been caused by the ongoing pandemic and appreciate the toll that this can take on the wellbeing of all of us. My request of you is to be kind to our staff who are all working really hard in challenging circumstances to keep everyone safe.”

Speaking about the campaign, Dr Jon Hayes, local GP and Chair of Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire CCG, said:

“Any verbal or physical abuse towards staff will not be tolerated and appropriate action will be taken if it does occur.

“Our staff are doing a fantastic job caring for local people during very difficult times and continue to give their all to make sure that people receive high-quality health and care services.

“Everyone should be entitled to work in an environment where they feel safe and free from aggression or abuse.

“The majority of people treated by our staff are grateful for the first class care they receive and we’re grateful to them for continuing to give staff the respect and kindness they deserve.

“However we are hearing anecdotally of an increase in aggression and abuse towards our health and care staff in a range of settings. This is completely unacceptable and the campaign message is very clear that it won’t be tolerated under any circumstances.

“We do know that coronavirus-related precautions mean that waits for appointments and treatments may take longer, but please remember that social distancing arrangements are there to keep patients and staff safe. Please continue to be patient and treat staff with respect.”

Robert Woolley, Chief Executive at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our staff are tirelessly working to care for people in need throughout the pandemic during what continues to be an incredibly challenging year.

“The majority of patients and visitors are respectful appreciative of their efforts, but some patients and families are abusive and intimidating towards our staff. This is an ongoing issue but has got worse since the start of the pandemic.

“We will not tolerate any violence, abusive behaviour or intimidation towards our staff. Please be kind and respect our staff and colleagues working across the health and care sector.”

Evelyn Barker, Chief Executive at North Bristol NHS Trust, said: “Despite the outpouring of love for the NHS over the last year, we are unfortunately still seeing and hearing of staff dealing with abusive and intimidating behaviour from patients and family.

“Our staff are providing care around the clock to people in need, in what is an especially challenging year. Our ask is for you all to please give our colleagues the respect they deserve, and we will continue to support them in addressing behaviour that does not reflect this ask.”

Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol City Council with responsibility for Communities, Equalities and Public Health, said: “Our keyworkers are working tirelessly to keep everybody safe, so please treat them as you’d wish to be treated, with respect. Despite a challenging year, Bristol has shown great community spirit for the most part, so let’s continue to work together and show appreciation for our frontline staff. We recognise that this year has been testing for everybody and has required huge amounts of patience with increased demand on our health care services leading to longer wait times for appointments and treatment. However, abuse is unacceptable.”

Local people can help prepare themselves for a visit to our health settings by watching this video, made with health and care staff across the system, which has been put together to show how services are keeping patients safe and what they need to think about before visiting a health site.

Support and advice is available from all providers to help people who have concerns, complaints or grievances about their care. Contact your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service who offer confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters.

NHS Vaccine Programme rolls out in BNSSG

Local health and care leaders have today (8 December 2020) praised the efforts of hardworking staff for making the roll out of a Covid-19 vaccine possible.

Southmead hospital in Bristol is one of 50 hospital hubs to become operational across the country this week, with more to be announced in the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up.

Since the Pfizer vaccine got the green light from regulators last week, staff from across the area have been working around the clock to manage the large-scale logistical challenge of deploying the vaccine.

Dr Tim Whittlestone, Clinical Director at North Bristol NHS Trust, said: “This is a historic moment for the country, and I want to thank staff across our health and care system who have worked incredibly hard to get us ready to deliver the vaccine locally.

"We are delighted to be able to begin vaccination in Bristol today – focusing on the over 80s, care home staff, and other health and care staff facing the highest risk from Covid-19.

"We will continue to follow the national prioritisation guidance as the programme rolls out, and as the range of places in which people can receive the immunisation expands.

"People will be invited to attend an appointment directly – there is no need to call us – and we ask everyone to continue to follow guidance including Hands Face Space and maintaining good hand hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Ninety-eight-year-old Jack Vokes from Alveston, in South Gloucestershire, was the first person locally to receive the vaccine.

He said: “I hope I’ve helped by having this in advance. I live in hope that by the middle of next year we’ll hopefully be living a normal life.”

People aged 80 and over as well as care home workers will be first to receive the jab this week, along with NHS workers who are at higher risk.

Staff at Southmead have begun inviting over 80s to receive the jab and, have been working closely with Local Authorities and care home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.

Any appointments not used for these most at-risk groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from covid. All those vaccinated will need a booster jab between 21 and 35 days later.

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis has warned that the roll out of a vaccine will be a marathon not a sprint.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.


Healthier Together partnership becomes ‘Integrated Care System’

The Healthier Together Partnership for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) has today (3rd December 2020) achieved formal ‘Integrated Care System’ status, reflecting the huge efforts made by local organisations and health and care staff to collaborate in recent years.

Ten organisations – including NHS Trusts, councils, the ambulance services, commissioners and community providers – make up the Healthier Together partnership, which was established in 2016. In recent years, the partnership has been working closely together to break down the barriers between primary, secondary, mental health and social care and ensure that everyone in the local area receives joined-up support that meets their individual needs.

All health and care systems in the country are expected to achieve ICS status by April 2021, in line with NHS England’s national Long Term Plan.

Robert Woolley and Julia Ross, Chief Executives at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust and BNSSG Clinical Commissioning Group respectively; and executive co-leads of Healthier Together, said:

“We are delighted to have achieved official Integrated Care System (ICS) status in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG).

"Over the last few years, the ten organisations in our Healthier Together partnership – including NHS Trusts and Local Authorities – have been working together to join services up around people’s individual needs, and break down the barriers between primary, secondary, mental health and social care.

"This is an exciting opportunity to build on what we have done so far, and continue to improve services and experience for everyone in our area. It is also a testament to the skill and dedication of our fantastic health and care workforce, whose commitment to collaboration has shone through during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 "We are looking forward to working with local people, health and care staff, communities, voluntary groups and others as we continue on our journey to ensure sustainable, high quality care for everyone in BNSSG.”

Local health and care faces increasing pressure

Health and care leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) are today (Thursday 26th November) urging the public to do everything they can to keep themselves and their communities safe from coronavirus as demand on local services continues to rise.

The local health and care system entered its highest state of alert this week, with all services stretched by the second wave of the pandemic and rising non-Covid pressures - coupled with staff sickness and families needing to self-isolate.

While a range of innovative measures have been introduced - including a brand new ‘home from hospital’ support scheme run in partnership with the local voluntary sector – the public can play a key role by continuing to adhere to Hands, Face, Space guidance and using services appropriately.

Dr Jon Hayes, a GP in Hanham and Chair of the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

‘We know our area has been hit much harder during the second wave of the pandemic than the first, and this is putting our health and care system under considerable strain.

Our dedicated staff are working together in new ways to keep services up and running, and their contribution continues to be immense. Support from the public is vital too. The NHS is very much open, but we need people to use services appropriately.

That includes thinking 111 first for urgent medical care, and using our new 24/7 support line if you have mental health concerns. It’s important for both you and the NHS that we get people to the right care first time. People should also look out for their vulnerable loved ones and neighbours to keep them well closer to home.

We have an extraordinary community spirit across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, and the best way for us to get through this challenging time is by working together. ‘

The fresh plea comes as a brand new ‘Home from Hospital’ service launched this week. Organisations including the British Red Cross, We Care & Repair and the Home from Hospital Partnership are working collaboratively to provide non-medical support for people returning home after a hospital stay. People over 65 who have been in hospital overnight - and who do not already have ongoing support in place from community health or adult social care - can expect a wellbeing call from the British Red Cross no later than 48hrs after they have returned home.

A local 24/7 telephone support line has also been launched.  Anyone who is concerned about their own or someone else’s mental health can call 0800 0126 549 and speak to qualified staff for emotional support.  The counsellors can provide one off support for people experiencing difficulties with their mood or emotions, and who require immediate support when their situation is not life threatening.

People can continue to contact their local authority helplines for help with non-medical issues such as shopping and prescription collection if they are vulnerable or isolating:

  • Bristol: We are Bristol: 0800 694 0184
  • North Somerset: North Somerset Together: 01934 427 437
  • South Gloucestershire: 0800 953 7778