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.

 


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

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

As we reach a critical point in the country’s fight against coronavirus, we want to share a big thank you for continuing to do everything you can to protect yourselves and our communities; and to update you on the latest from your local health and care services.

This week, we had news of a new mutation of the Kent variant of the virus locally. The cluster of cases is being further investigated by our Local Authorities and Public Health England. The best way we can all respond is to continue to follow national guidance. Safe behaviours such as regular hand washing, wearing a face covering and social distancing give us the very best chance of minimising risk and preventing the spread of the virus.

This national lockdown is having a positive effect, with the number of new cases starting to fall. While this is reason to be optimistic, services remain under considerable pressure. Increased demand on our hospitals mean we are now supporting more people to move into the community or return home for their ongoing recovery. Community and social care services are stretched; and GP surgeries are prioritising their most urgent patients.

As well as following the national guidance, we are asking people to ‘help us help you’, by:

  • Being ready to support your loved ones home from hospital as soon as they are well enough to leave.
  • Not putting aside any health concerns you have. GPs (doctors) continue to provide appointments for urgent issues, such as potential signs of cancer. Your local pharmacist can offer support for a range of minor conditions.
  • Clicking or calling 111 when you need urgent care and are unsure of what to do. Our Emergency Departments are very busy, and we have less space in our waiting rooms than we did before the pandemic. The 111 First service is staffed by clinicians, and will ensure you get to the right service for your needs, faster.

Family support is particularly vital at this time. We know the best bed is your own bed in terms of ongoing recovery and retaining independence. If you have a loved one being admitted to hospital, please start preparing for their discharge at the outset. Clinicians will be on hand to support you, and have the conversations you need about rehabilitation and recovery.

Finally, we are pleased to be making great strides with coronavirus vaccination - our way out of the pandemic. 140,000 people in BNSSG have now received their first dose, and every care home in our area has been offered the vaccination. You can find out more about the local roll-out here, and the NHS will be in touch with you when it’s your turn to be vaccinated.

It’s also really important that in these extraordinary circumstances we remember to be kind and support one other. The next page of this letter highlights the further support available to you, including the mental health and wellbeing resources available at this time.

Thank you – on behalf of the Executives in Healthier Together

 

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

  • If you start to experience any coronavirus symptoms, including a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss or change in your sense of smell or taste, you should book a test as soon as possible. You can also get a test for someone you live with if they have symptoms.
  • Tests can be booked at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or by calling 119. You can order a home test kit if you cannot get to a test site. If you’re getting a test because you have symptoms, you and anyone you live with must self-isolate until you get your result. This also applies to anyone in your support bubble (where someone who lives alone, or just with their children, can meet people from one other household).
  • Having flu and coronavirus at the same time more than doubles the chances of people dying from coronavirus. The flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect yourself against catching flu. If you are in an eligible priority groupyou can access a flu vaccine free through your GP practice or pharmacy.
  • 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: https://bnssg.silvercloudhealth.com/onboard/
    • 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

Download a copy of the Open Letter February 2021

Read our mass vaccination questions & answers


Covid-19 vaccination booking update for selected groups

You can now book a first covid-19 vaccination at a community pharmacy or vaccination centre without receiving an invitation, if you are in one of the priority groups 1-4 outlined by JCVI.  Specifically:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  • All those 80 years of age and over frontline health and social care workers
  • All those 75 years of age and over
  • All those 70 years of age and over clinically extremely vulnerable individuals

A spokesperson for Healthier Together, said:

“If you are in priority groups 1 to 4, and haven't received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and haven’t booked an appointment, you can go ahead and book a vaccination appointment without waiting for a letter. If you would prefer to be vaccinated at your local GP-led vaccination service please wait for them to contact you – please do not contact them.”

People in priority groups 1-4 (also known as cohorts 1-4) who have not received a first vaccine dose should call 119 or visit the NHS website to book an appointment.

Read more about local vaccination for COVID-19


NHS welcome military support

Military colleagues are supporting the NHS response to the second wave of the pandemic in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire from Wednesday 20 January, 2021.

Many NHS organisations around the country, including the wider South West, are welcoming teams to provide support where it would be of most benefit.

A system spokesman said:

“We are really pleased to have this support for our response as there are increasing number of people being hospitalised with Covid-19; people may see military personnel in reception areas as well as in clinical areas of our hospitals assisting our staff.

“It remains really important that everyone helps by staying at home, follow Hands, Face, Space when outside and use services appropriately.”


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.