Open letter to everyone in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire

To everyone in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG),

We want to share a big thank you for continuing to do everything you can to protect yourselves and your loved ones from Covid-19, as the four week extension to lockdown restrictions is announced. We know that the extension will mean different things to different people, but hope that as a community we can all take measures to keep one another safe.

The Delta variant of the virus is now the dominant strain in our area, and the best way to respond to this change and protect one another is by:

  • Getting vaccinated as soon as you can. We are now offering first dose vaccination appointments to everyone over the age of 18. People over 40 who had their first dose at least 8 weeks ago will soon be able to bring forward their existing appointment from 12 weeks. You can do this directly via the National Booking System or your GP practice will be in touch. Find out more on our website, the National Booking System or by calling 119.
  • Continuing to follow the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ guidance – washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering and observing social distancing.
  • Getting the right Covid test at the right time. Take your twice-weekly rapid Covid-19 tests and report your results. You can take your free tests at work, school, home or at an assisted testing site in Bristol, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire. If you have symptoms of coronavirus you must self-isolate and book a symptomatic test straightaway at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or by calling 119.

As restrictions have lifted, health and care services across our area have become busier. This includes in General Practice, where doctors and practice teams continue to vaccinate thousands of people each week alongside their ordinary work in our communities. Our hospitals and minor injury units are also busier, making it even more important to ‘choose well’ and use the right service for your needs. This includes:

  • Speaking to your pharmacist about very minor summer ailments such as hayfever, coughs or colds.
  • Consulting your GP about health concerns or conditions that won’t go away (GPs continue to provide face to face appointments, as well as offering phone and video consultations).
  • Clicking or calling NHS 111 first if you think you need A&E. The 111 service offers immediate medical advice and if you need urgent help, they can book you into the right service for your needs (please continue to only use A&E or call 999 in the event of serious and life-threatening emergencies).

Thank you for continuing to help us help you – including by treating our hardworking health and care staff with kindness and respect as services become busier. The next section of this letter highlights the further support available to you, including resources for mental health and wellbeing.

Thank you – on behalf of the Executives in Healthier Together

 

Thank you for all you’ve done so far. 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

Shielding has now ended. If you have a medical condition which makes you clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus and were asked to shield, there is online guidance available on how to stay safe

If 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

 


One million Covid-19 jabs in arms

Six months into the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the local NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) has reached the milestone of providing more than one million vaccinations to people in the area.

As of Thursday 17 June, 1,019,712 vaccinations have been given across BNSSG, meaning 76% have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The landmark has been reached as vaccinations open up to the entire adult population with people over the age of 18, now invited to book vaccinations as soon as possible through the national booking system.

Local NHS leaders have praised the efforts of health professionals, volunteers and communities across the area for their combined efforts to help reach this milestone, but are encouraging more people to come forward for the best protection against the virus.

Tim Whittlestone, Clinical Lead for the area’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, said:

“Reaching a million vaccinations is a huge achievement for everyone involved in our vaccination programme, and a moment to reflect upon what has been accomplished.

“However, we know that many people still need to receive their Covid-19 vaccine in order to get the best protection against the virus.

“Rising cases of the Delta variant across the area means it is of even greater importance for people to book their first jabs and - for those eligible - to return for their second jab for the most effective protection.

“We know the last 15 months have been really difficult for everyone, but vaccinations really are the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re eligible and haven’t yet had your vaccination, please book an appointment as soon as you can.”

Anyone aged 18 and over is now able to book their vaccination through the national booking system.

People who cannot go online can call the service on 119 instead to book their jab.

Those aged 39 and under and pregnant women will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in line with updated national guidance.

If you had your first vaccine through a GP-led service, they will be in contact with you to arrange your second vaccine appointment.


Changes to Covid-19 restrictions in England

More than 700,000 Covid-19 vaccinations have now been given across BNSSG and 30,000 more are being given every week. This means 62% of people in our area aged 16 and over have received a first dose.

From Monday 17 May, 2021, a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions will take place right across England.  This means some of the lockdown rules are changing, although some will remain in place such as continuing to work from home if you can.

Here is a summary of the latest changes:

Meeting up with friends and family

  • People can meet with up to 30 people outdoors
  • People can meet indoors as a group of six or as two households
  • You should exercise caution and consider the risks of close contact when meeting with family and friends

Entertainment

  • Indoor entertainment and attractions such as cinemas, theatres, concert halls, bowling alleys, casinos, amusement arcades, museums and children’s indoor play areas can open with Covid-secure measures in place
  • Indoor and outdoor events, including live performances, sporting events and business events can begin again. Attendance at these events will be capped according to venue type, and attendees should follow Covid-secure measures set out by those venues
  • Indoor hospitality venues such as restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes can reopen
  • Organised indoor sport will be able to take place for all

Travel and hospitality

  • All holiday accommodation will be open (including hotels and B&Bs) - this can be used by groups of up to six or two households
  • Pack some lateral flow (rapid) tests to take when you’re away or look up the facilities to access rapid tests wherever you’re visiting
  • Plan your journey in advance, including having plans in place if someone becomes unwell

Weddings, funerals and wakes

  • Up to 30 people can attend weddings, wakes and significant life and commemorative events
  • The legal limit on numbers of mourners at funerals has been removed, limits on capacity will depend on the venue or place of worship

Care homes

  • Care home residents can receive up to five named visitors (two at any one time), provided visitors test negative for Covid-19

Education

  • All higher education students can return to in-person teaching with Covid-secure arrangements in place

International travel

  • A traffic light system is being implemented for international travel, and you must follow the rules when returning to England depending on whether you return from a red, amber or green list country
  • Red travellers are required to isolate at a quarantine hotel, and amber travellers are required to isolate at home

 

More detailed information on these changes can be found on the UK Government website.

 


NHS in summer operations drive to tackle pandemic backlog

The NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) is aiming to carry out extra operations and outpatient appointments this summer as part of plans to restore routine care after the pandemic.

Surgeons, GPs, nurses, therapists and other clinical staff across the health system are pulling out all the stops to treat more patients who have had to wait longer than usual for treatment.

Across the first and second waves of Covid-19, many non-urgent operations were postponed to prioritise the most urgent cases and maintain incredibly high standards of infection control.

As part of the national elective accelerator programme, NHS organisations across the area are working together to tackle the backlog. A series of innovations will be deployed to keep people well before and after surgery and maximise the time of clinical teams. There is also a big focus on minimising the amount of time people spend recovering in hospital, with more rehabilitation to support individuals in their own homes.

Integrated post-operative care and rehabilitation will be provided by hospital and community clinicians. There is also a big effort to prioritise those with the greatest clinical need, while ensuring that patients continuing to wait receive regular support and information.

Examples include:

  • GPs holding video consultations to support patients to lose weight, give up smoking, and make sure they’re on the right medicines so that they are in the best possible condition for surgery.
  • Staff from different organisations joining forces on multi-disciplinary teams to plan together around the needs of each person.
  • More remote (online) outpatient appointments, with 30 per cent already carried out in this way.
  • Expanding surgery into evenings and weekends to make the most of theatres.
  • Expanding a “Hospital at Home” service in which individuals recover from surgery on a “virtual ward” in their own home with regular visits from specialist nurses and therapists and, in time, virtual consultations with doctors.
  • New smartphone apps to access advice on managing conditions, with access to services when people need them.

Evelyn Barker, Deputy Chief Executive at North Bristol NHS Trust and system lead for the BNSSG accelerator programme, said:

“Sadly the pandemic has meant many people waiting much longer for planned treatment. However, we have also learned a lot, and colleagues across our area are embracing innovative and creative ways to recover services as quickly as possible.

This is a huge task and will take time, but we are pulling out all the stops to treat more patients whilst ensuring the wellbeing of our dedicated staff.”

Cathy Daffada, who is leading the work for community provider Sirona care & health, said:

“Working together, we will ensure care is wrapped around the individual to keep them safe at home and help them achieve their goals. We are also really excited to have an innovative digital solution to support people’s journey through the different services from hospital to community. This improved communication for clinicians will have a positive effect for individuals as they will only need to tell their story once.”


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