Stay alert to coronavirus

Some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed on 29 March 2021. However, many restrictions remain in place such as socialising indoors with anyone you do not live with or have not formed a support bubble with.

You should continue to work from home if you can and minimise the number of journeys you make where possible. You should get a test and follow the stay at home guidance if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

This is a summary of the changes:

  • you can meet outdoors either in a group of 6 (from any number of households), or in a group of any size from up to 2 households (a household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible)
  • you can take part in formally organised outdoor sports with any number of people (outdoor sports venues and facilities will be able to reopen)
  • childcare and supervised activities are allowed outdoors for all children
  • formally organised parent and child groups can take place outdoors for up to 15 attendees. Children under 5 will not be counted in this number

Click here for more detailed information on the latest changes.


Covid-19 a year on: a time to reflect and recover

It’s hard to believe that almost a year has passed since we entered into a first national lockdown. As 23rd March approaches, we will be reflecting on the lives lost and changed forever as a result of Covid-19. The first remembrance event in in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will take place on Sunday.

It’s also important to acknowledge what we’ve achieved by pulling together during this time. We want to thank you all for following the national guidance to keep yourselves, your loved ones and your communities as safe as possible. We know it hasn’t always been easy. But by doing so, you’ve helped staff in local services to continue providing safe care.

Thank you also to our incredible health and social care staff, who have worked exceptionally hard in the toughest of circumstances. In every setting - from doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and care homes, to community services, mental health wards, vaccination centres and more. Whether supporting people online, face to face or in their own homes: their resilience and dedication has been an inspiration.

Thank you to the many military personnel, and the thousands of volunteers and students who joined us. Thank you to the transport and shop workers, the teachers, school staff, community action groups and supportive neighbours – just a fraction of the huge network building our communities and helping us to help you every day.

While there’s much to be thankful for, the NHS has been hit hard by this pandemic. As we plan for the weeks and months ahead, we need to ensure our staff have time to recover from this experience, while we also work to fully restore services and widen access to care again.

Many of you will be waiting longer for planned treatments and appointments. We know this is upsetting and more than an inconvenience. That’s why the safe renewal of planned care is a priority for our whole health and care system. We are currently reviewing all our waiting lists to ensure we prioritise by clinical need. Contact information and a range of guidance to support you while waiting for treatment is available on the CCG website. If you become unwell while waiting, please call your clinical team straight away.

While cases of Covid-19 are falling across our area, we must not get complacent now. There are still a number of people affected by the virus in our hospitals, and community services remain pressured. Remember that pharmacies can support with minor ailments and your GP is available for urgent and serious concerns. If you are not sure what to do, click or call 111 and our clinical advisors will direct you to the right place.

Finally, as we approach a full year since the virus changed our lives, we are pleased to be making such progress with vaccinations locally. 40% of eligible people have now been vaccinated with a first dose in our area. Taking up the vaccination when offered is one of the best things we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. You can find out more about the local programme on the Healthier Together website.

Of course, mental health remains as important as physical health. Please take the time to review some of the additional support available to you and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need it.

Thank you – on behalf of the Executives in Healthier Together

 

Marking a year since the start of lockdown:

  • Bristol City Council is launching ‘Bristol Remembers’ which will be hosted on the We Are Bristol website at 6pm, Thursday 18 March.
  • North Somerset Council is inviting residents to light a candle in their window at 7pm on 14 March to remember those we have lost during the pandemic.
  • South Gloucestershire Council is inviting residents to post memories of loved ones who have lost their lives to Covid-19, as part of a #SouthGlosRemembers tribute on 23 March.

Thank you for all you’ve done so far and here’s how to continue helping us, to help you:

  • Your mental health and wellbeing is important, and there is support available for you locally:
  • The VITA 24/7 helpline can help you with emotional support. The line connects you with a mental health counsellor and relevant groups in your local area. Call 0800 012 6549 (textphone users should dial 18001 followed by 0800 0126549). Translators are available.
  • The AWP Mental Health 24/7 response line is there for adults or children under the care of AWP and worried about their own or someone else’s mental health: 0300 303 1320
  • SilverCloud is a free online platform offering valuable mental health and wellbeing support.
  • Bump2baby wellbeing helps you find the right support during pregnancy, birth and beyond: bump2babywellbeingguide.org

If you’ve been notified that you that you have a medical condition which makes you clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, please register your details at the following website: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support You can use this service to get access to priority supermarket deliveries or ask for someone to contact you about other local support.

If this does not apply to you but you still feel you require support, please get in touch with your local authority using the contact details below. You can also contact them if you have any other questions or concerns:

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

If you are receiving care in your home, including district nurses, therapists and support workers, and need to discuss your needs, please call: 0300 125 6789.

Remember: if you are experiencing domestic abuse, household isolation rules do not apply. You are allowed to leave your home and NextLink can provide support and accommodation. Call 0800 4700 280 (24/7) or go to: nextlinkhousing.co.uk


BAME community leaders speak out on getting vaccinated

Black, Asian and minority ethnic community leaders in Bristol have spoken candidly on camera about getting vaccinated for Covid.

Several BAME leaders each recorded a short video during vaccine visits to the East Trees Health Centre in Eastville where they met with Dr Hyunkee Kim.

The recordings offer an insight to the cultural and practical barriers facing some local people as the vaccine rollout continues, along with messages of hope.

Among recent vaccine developments, the NHS is now offering ‘pop up’ mobile vaccination clinics in community settings which some people may find easier to access than a Doctor’s surgery.

The Bristol BAME community leaders who spoke on camera included Bishop Raymond Veira from The House of Praise on Tudor Road, who said: “The health centre is in Easton, which is great, and I felt comfortable visiting the surgery. But it’s important that we are now looking at other sites such as community centres and churches which people can access easily.”

Sandra Meadows MBE, Chief Executive of Voscur, received her first dose of the vaccine and said: “I felt under the weather in the 24 hours after having the vaccine. I would recommend that people prepare to do very little, if anything, in the first 24 hours.  You may feel fine, which is great, but do give your body time and space to adjust if it needs to. I felt perfectly well again after that first 24 hours and have been ever since.”

Bishop Dexter Edmund from the Bethel Church, said: “I understand why members of our community would be cautious about taking the vaccine, I also had questions. However, I would encourage those with concerns to speak to a healthcare professional who they know and trust as I did. They were more than happy to answer all my questions.”

Husband and wife Rashid and Tahseen Majothi from Bristol Sweet Mart were vaccinated together. Rashid said “I hope the vaccine can help us to get back to some sort of normality. We haven’t been able to be together with family during these difficult times. I hope that the vaccination programme means we can get back to seeing each other again soon.”

You can watch all of the BAME leaders’ videos here

More information on vaccine safety, eligibility, and locations is available here


‘It’s not OK’: healthcare staff stand together against unacceptable behaviour

Local health and care organisations are joining together to say ‘It’s not OK’ to be violent, aggressive or abusive towards their staff, in a new campaign launching today.

The ‘It’s not OK’ campaign aims to highlight the impact of unacceptable behaviour which some healthcare staff experience while at work, by sharing their stories and urging the public to respect healthcare staff and remember that they’re people too.

Whilst the majority of patients and visitors to healthcare settings are respectful and appreciative, there has been a worrying rise in abusive behaviour during the pandemic.

Healthcare staff know and appreciate that there will be occasions where patients, due to the nature of their condition or through cognitive impairment, may become confused or stressed in unfamiliar environments, which can lead to challenging behaviour. Staff are offered de-escalation training to help deal with these kinds of instances in an appropriate manner.

However, there are many violent, aggressive and abusive incidents which do not involve such patients and can have a lasting impact on NHS staff who deserve to be able to feel safe when they come to work.

Francesca Grover, a coordinator for the appointment centre at UHBW, has experienced verbal abuse a number of times when trying to help people:

“I’ve had people tell me that I can’t do my job, ask me what I get paid for and continuingly swear at me. This can be extremely deflating and it can be really hard to pick yourself back up.

“When you speak to people over the phone, it takes away the face-to-face aspect and some people can be more abusive because they don’t have the risk of seeing the other person upset.

“I would ask people to please remember that there is a human at the end of the phone, and we are just here to help you as best we can.”

Ros Green, a senior urgent care practitioner for Sirona care & health, has experienced verbal abuse from members of the public at Bristol’s Urgent Treatment Centre:

“I’m at work to look after people, I’m not at work for people to take their aggression out on me. It’s just a horrible experience that leaves you feeling in a really horrible situation and then you have to pick yourself up and move on to see the next person and still have a smile on your face and so that’s just really difficult sometimes.”

Anna Bell, Emergency Department Matron at Southmead Hospital said:

“I’ve been an ED (Emergency Department) nurse at North Bristol Trust for 13 years. Challenging behaviours are nothing new; we look after people when they’re at their most vulnerable, and in an unfamiliar environment, so we understand that people behave differently when they’re under stress. We’re trained to diffuse situations and make people feel safe.

“Sadly, our staff are more exposed than ever to unnecessary and escalating levels of violence and aggression from the general public.  People’s worry about COVID and not being able to have relatives with them can really add to their stress levels, but we urge people to let our staff do their job. They’re trying their best to look after you under difficult circumstances, so please treat them with the respect they deserve.”

Simon Bradley, GP in South Gloucestershire said:

“All GP surgeries are working hard to provide our usual patient care, as well as helping with COVID-related illness and vaccinating tens of thousands of people.

“Most people are really supportive, but a few are abusive and shout and insult my team, both face-to face and on the phone. This really hurts and is immensely damaging to morale.

“I know people are stressed but our team have suffered losses and illness too so please try to be understanding. It will help us to help you.”

There are a number of measures in place to support healthcare staff when experiencing violent or aggressive behaviour, ranging from warning letters and acceptable behaviour contracts through to patients being excluded from the premises and, in some circumstances, involving the police.

NHS staff should be able to carry out their work free from the threat of aggressive or abusive behaviour. Please respect our staff and remember that they are people too.


'Story So Far' video marks 200,000 local vaccinations in 70 days

This short video documents a timeline from the first Covid-19 vaccination in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire last December to passing the 200,000 mark - in just 70 days.

The remarkable achievement captures how the whole community came together to give the best possible start to the local vaccination effort, allowing a first dose vaccination to be offered to everyone over 70 and frontline health and care workers.

Highlights include Alveston pensioner Jack Vokes becoming the first local person to be vaccinated on 8th December 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting staff at the opening of Ashton Gate's super-vaccination centre in January 2021, and volunteers working alongside health and care professionals at a range of venues.

The video also references an Open Letter shared by health and care leaders praising the ongoing community effort and asking people to 'help us help you'.

Read more about local vaccination for COVID-19


Covid-19 vaccinations moving to next phase

Local health and care organisations are moving to the next stage of the local Covid-19 vaccine programme after offering vaccinations to everyone in the top four priority groups, as set by the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG).

Vaccinations are now available to people in three priority groups. They are people aged 65 – 69, people aged 16 – 64 who are classified as clinically vulnerable because they have a range of clinical conditions identified by the JCVI that increase their risk from Covid-19, and people recently added to the updated Shielded Patient List.

If you are in any of these three groups you will be contacted to book your vaccination appointment.

People aged 65-69 are being encouraged to book appointments at Ashton Gate Vaccination Centre or at one of seven local community pharmacies. This can be done by logging on to the national booking service at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or calling 119.

GP led vaccination sites will focus initially on the clinically vulnerable because of the relationship between general practice and those with long term conditions, and continuity of care.

People aged between 65 and 69 who have also been added to the Shielded Patient List will have the option of booking an appointment at Ashton Gate or community pharmacy, or waiting to be contacted by their GP.

Dr Tim Whittlestone, Clinical Lead for the BNSSG Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, said:

“We have had great take up of vaccine appointments for our next priority groups already and I would encourage anyone who receives an invite to book their appointment as soon as possible. We have a range of vaccination sites across the area to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated.”

“The vaccine is safe, simple, and will offer you and those around you crucial protection against this virus.”

There is still opportunity for any person in the top four priority groups who hasn’t been vaccinated to book an appointment. Please use the national booking system to book your vaccine, or contact your local GP.

Local people are being asked not to contact any vaccination site or visit them without an appointment.

Read more about local vaccination for COVID-19


Help us, help you get better at home

Health and care agencies across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are asking the public to be ready to support their loved ones as soon as they are ready to leave hospital and to help them stay well at home.

This national lockdown is having a positive effect, with the number of new cases of coronavirus starting to fall. While this is reason to be optimistic, services remain under considerable pressure.

This demand means more than ever that every hospital bed is needed for those who are extremely medically unwell, and because of this, more people are being supported to move into the community for their ongoing rehabilitation.

The priority is still ensuring people are discharged safely to continue their recovery and, once a doctor has advised they are well enough to leave, clinicians will discuss the details of their discharge with individuals and a family member if they wish.

The best bed is always your own in terms of recovery and retaining independence and this is why family support is also vital at this time.

As well as following the national guidance, local health and community care services are asking the public to ‘help us help you’, by:

  • Being ready to support loved ones home from hospital as soon as they are well enough to leave.
  • Not putting aside health concerns. GPs (doctors) continue to provide appointments for potentially serious concerns, and pharmacists can offer a range of support for minor conditions.
  • Clicking or calling 111 for urgent care. Emergency Departments are very busy, and there is less space in waiting rooms than before. A new 111 First service is staffed by clinicians, who will ensure people get to the right service, faster.
  • Only use A&E or call 999 in the event of serious and life-threatening emergencies.

Cathy Daffada, one of three Access and Flow Leads for Sirona care & health, whose role is focussed on supporting people to leave hospital as soon as they are safe to do so, said:

“People have been doing a phenomenal job throughout the pandemic in looking out for neighbours, relatives, and the frail and elderly. While we have strong processes in place to manage the increase in demand, we’re calling on the public to help too.

“We are asking people to be ready to collect their loved ones from hospital as soon as they are medically fit to leave and to continue to check on what vulnerable relatives might need to stay well at home.

“It’s more important than ever that our hospital beds are available for those who really need them.”

Dr Richard Berkley, local GP at Orchard Medical Centre in Kingswood, said:

“Local GPs are working closely with our colleagues in hospitals and in the community to enable discharge from hospital as soon as this is clinically appropriate. This means that we are having to work slightly differently in GP surgeries for the next few weeks.

“In addition to supporting discharge, we would ask you to help us by considering self-care options before getting in touch with your surgery – visit your GP practice website which contains lots of information about how to do this. If you have a minor illness, please contact your pharmacy first.

“GP surgeries are open, so it is important that anyone with urgent or potentially serious problems continues to contact us.

“Finally, I would like to remind patients not to contact their GP surgery about their COVID vaccination. We can assure you that the NHS has your contact details and will be in touch when it’s your turn.”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.

Michelle Phillips, British Red Cross Service Manager for BNSSG First Call service, said:

“We had someone referred to us who had been in hospital for around 3 weeks but when they arrived home after being discharged, they had no heating. Our Red Cross First Call service sent a support worker to visit the property and helped to turn the gas back on. The team also called that individual twice over the weekend to check the heating had stayed on and there were no other issues or concerns.”

With this support, all health and social care services can ensure everyone who needs a hospital bed or community support can be helped during this difficult time.


Call for the over 70s and clinically extremely vulnerable to contact NHS for a COVID-19 vaccine

The over 70s and clinically extremely vulnerable who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 are being asked to contact the NHS directly to book an appointment.

Until now, the NHS has asked people to wait until they are contacted to help ensure that the most vulnerable are protected first – and that remains the case for most people.

However, to ensure that absolutely everyone is offered the vaccine, people aged 70 and over and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable can now contact the NHS directly to book their appointment. People who are clinically extremely vulnerable will have previously received a letter asking them to shield due to a health condition

Dr Geeta Iyer, Local GP and member of the clinical team responsible for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) COVID-19 vaccination programme, explained:

“The vaccination programme in BNSSG is running really well and we have now vaccinated the majority of people in the top four priority groups.

“However, if you're over 70 or clinically extremely vulnerable at any age, and you haven’t yet received your first dose of vaccine, please come forward and make an appointment as soon as you can.

"There are local appointments available at a range of sites, and people can be vaccinated at home where clinically necessary.

“The vaccine is safe, simple, and will offer you and those around you crucial protection against this virus.”

Those who would like an appointment at a doctors' surgery close to where they live can call their local GP practice to discuss options or visit their practice website.

For appointments at Ashton Gate stadium or a pharmacy location, people can contact the national booking system or call 119 free of charge between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.

Ashton Gate offers appointments from 8am - 8pm every day, and the Uber taxi service is currently offering discounts for people travelling to be vaccinated there.

Read more about local vaccination for COVID-19


Covid stories from the frontline

Frontline workers in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have been recording eyewitness accounts of their daily work lives amid continued pressure on local services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a unique series of self-filmed video diaries, staff from a Bristol hospital, a Minor Injury Unit and a GP practice are among those sharing what it is like working to support patients during lockdown.

Contributors include A&E Consultant Rebecca Thorpe who shares a day working at the Bristol Royal Infirmary: “The department is really busy now, but the team have done a fantastic job and kept everybody safe.”

Kingswood GP Dr Richard Berkley tells how primary and community care is getting busier: “In my 25 years as a GP I’ve never seen the system under as much pressure as it is now.”

The video diaries are part of a multi-agency campaign called Covid Stories, run by Healthier Together partners including Sirona care & health, OneCare, Bristol City Council, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, along with Avon and Somerset Police.

It is hoped these first-hand accounts of life for health and care workers will help to remind people to continue sticking to lockdown rules including Hands:Face:Space, and to treat health and care staff with kindness and respect.

Director of Public Health for Bristol City Council, Christina Gray said: “Our healthcare systems are now under huge pressure supporting more people than ever who are very unwell. We all need to do what we can to prevent the spread of infection by not mixing with others and staying at home. If we do have to go out for essential trips or work we must wash our hands, wear face coverings and keep at least a 2 metre distance. Every small action makes a difference.”

Deirdre Fowler, Interim Chief Nurse at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Coronavirus has had an impact on us all and we are seeing patients daily who are affected by it.

“We are incredibly grateful to our staff who are dealing with difficult situations every day and working through a period of unprecedented demand for the NHS, which is under intense pressure locally with large numbers of cases of coronavirus as well as the usual winter pressures.

“The best ways you can show your support for the NHS are to strictly follow the latest Government lockdown guidance around coronavirus, and to use services appropriately. Unless it’s a serious or life-threatening situation, anyone thinking of visiting A&E should click or call 111 first. Clinical staff will be on-hand to ensure you get to the most appropriate urgent care service first time.”

Mary Lewis, Director of Nursing, Sirona care & health said: "We are so proud of our staff for the hard work, care and dedication they have shown throughout the pandemic and the level of care we are continuing to provide across our local communities at such a challenging time. Some of our staff have also lost loved ones to Covid-19, contracted the virus themselves or had to care for family members self-isolating at home. As these video diaries show, we are doing the best we can but without the support of people across the South West continuing to follow the rules and reduce the spread of this deadly virus, we will not be able to reduce the pressures on our NHS alone."

Superintendent Andy Bennett said: “In the darkest days of this pandemic, the NHS has stood strong under immense pressure and we’re all so grateful for the incredible work they’re doing every minute of every day.

“Our policing response has always been focussed on engaging with the public and explaining the importance of the regulations in place to save lives and prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed, encouraging them to comply and using enforcement wherever necessary.

“These video diaries show the reality of life on the NHS frontline and I would urge the public to watch them, share them with their family and friends, and do everything they can to follow the rules in place to stop this deadly virus from spreading any further in our communities.”

Thank you to all of our frontline and healthcare workers, including those who have shared their stories on video, for their continued sacrifice and hard work to support local people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Covid Stories can be viewed here.


Surge testing: what do I need to know?

People living in some Bristol and South Gloucestershire postcodes are being encouraged to get a covid-19 test to help us learn more about covid-19 variants.

If you live in one of the named postcodes you are now invited to get tested at a mobile test site or a 'collect and drop' centre, whether or not you think you might have covid-19.

If you live in Bristol you can find out more here.

If you live in South Gloucestershire you can find out more here.