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.


Healthier Together partnership supports 'Stamp Out Racism' statement

Health and care leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have today signed up to the 'Stamp Out Racism' statement, following the recent racist attacks on Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees and Deputy Mayor Asher Craig. Speaking on behalf of the Partnership as its Executive Co-Chair and CEO of the area's Clinical Commissioning Group, Julia Ross, said:

"We stand together against racism and extend our support to Mayor Rees and Councillor Craig in the wake of these horrific attacks. The obligation to stamp out racism rests with us all. As a Healthier Together partnership, we will continue to speak out, and ensure our services, workplaces and communities are safe and inclusive."

The full 'Stamp Out Racism' statement is set out below.

Statement of support - Stamp Out Racism

The solidarity we show in standing against the racism that Marvin Rees and Asher Craig face will give hope to those who are facing racism across society. We see you and we stand with you.

For too long we have watched people from all walks of public life receive racist abuse, whether it be Premier League football players having monkey chants taunt them before they take a freekick, or having bananas thrown at them as they leave the pitch. We have watched actors, singers, presenters and politicians who have been singled out for racist abuse both online and in person. These attacks have a deep impact not only on those they are directed at but all those who watch and hear the vile abuse, especially children.

Racism is an inhumane and cruel form of abuse that for too long people of colour have had to endure quietly and on their own.

This statement of support is a message that we the undersigned will not stay quiet whilst those around us are singled out for racist abuse in 2021.

We speak to give comfort to those who feel alone in the struggle against racism, as a city we will stand up to racism in all its forms and speaking out publicly when we see racism take place does two things, it tells the perpetrators that their actions are grotesque and it tells those that are abused they are not alone.


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.


Mobile vaccination clinics

We have listened to feedback from people across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire telling us that some communities want to have their COVID-19 vaccination in a trusted environment they are familiar with.  As a result we are running some vaccination clinics in locations such as local community centres, mosques, churches and temples.

These mobile vaccination clinics are being run in addition to our wider vaccination programme across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire and are usually run by staff from local GP surgeries.

If you have been invited to receive your vaccine at your GP’s regular vaccination clinic or asked to book an appointment at a community pharmacy or the Ashton Gate Vaccination Centre via the national booking system, please do your best to attend one of these sites.  This will allow the limited appointments at our mobile mobile vaccination clinics to be made available to those who need them most. You can find more information about other vaccination sites here.

Booking for these mobile clinics is being managed by local communities, rather than through the national booking system or GP services.

For more information or you have any questions about a specific community clinic please email bnssg.communications@nhs.net.

Community leaders who recently had their COVID19 vaccinations at Eastville medical centre talk about their reasons for choosing to have the COVD19 vaccine:

Bishop Raymond Veira, Pastor at The House of Praise

Bishop Dexter Edmund, Senior Pastor at Bethel Church, Bristol                                                                                        

Many health care professionals from across our region are involved in the set up and running of the mobile vaccination clinics.  See what some of them have said about being involved in this programme:

 

Dr Huzaifa Adamali – Respiratory Consultant at Southmead Hospital.  Dr Adamali has worked on the frontline with grassroots BAME communities during the pandemic and sits on the Bristol COVID-19 Pandemic Board

The current pandemic has been challenging and we have lost so many: family, friends, neighbours….our communities have been shaken up.  Now we have an option to prevent the transmission of the virus and becoming seriously unwell.  I would recommend that we take the COVID19 vaccination.  We want to return to our old lives where we can congregate and pray and celebrate our religious festivals.  Let’s get ready for Easter and Ramadan and ensure we have done our bit to protect ourselves, family and love ones”

Dr Caroline Crentsil – Salaried GP at The Orchard Medical Centre, Kingswood, and Lead GP at The Haven, Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Service, Montpelier. Dr Crentsil is also commencing a population health fellowship with BNSSG, working to reduce health inequalities.

“As a GP working in 2 different roles I have seen the devastating impact of coronavirus across multiple communities; loved ones lost before their time, and also otherwise healthy people struggling to return to normality due to symptoms of long-COVID. The COVID-19 vaccines offer the hope of an end to all the loss and I’m grateful that vaccination is being made more accessible to everyone via these community clinics. Alongside the clinics we are also providing opportunities to have your questions about the vaccine answered so that everyone can access the information they need to make an informed decision.”

Dr Seema Srivastava – Consultant Medicine for Older People, Associate Medical Director at Southmead Hospital.  Dr Srivastava works in the Emergency Zone at Southmead Hospital looking after older patients. She also leads the safety and quality improvement (QI) programme across the Trust and was awarded an MBE in the 2018 Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for her services to the NHS in Patient Safety.

“I have seen some of the most unwell patients during the COVID pandemic. Taking the vaccine is so important to stop people of any age getting really unwell or passing serious infection to others. I am really pleased we can bring the vaccine closer to our local communities and proud to be helping in the community clinics.”

Sahra Adan, Amran Hussein and Mohamed Elmi are 3 of the many local Bristol North Somerset South Gloucestershire Health Link Workers providing face to face, telephone and video call interpreting, as well as advocacy, signposting and referrals for people who have difficulty in accessing health services due to language and cultural barriers.

Sahra Adan

“The Coronavirus situation put us in a place that no one could predict what tomorrow may look like and our whole future was uncertain. Fortunately there is a light at the end of the tunnel because our medical experts have worked, and continue working, incredibly hard to produce those reliable vaccines to protect us from this nasty disease.

I am so glad that I am doing my bit by encouraging people to take the vaccination and look forward to taking part in community vaccination clinics, working with different communities and health professionals who have always been on the frontline to serve the communities”

Amran Hussein

“As a Health Link Worker taking part in the Covid-19 vaccination pop-up clinic for BAME is a great opportunity to address the issue of reduced uptake for the vaccine in BAME communities. The outcomes of the clinics are very encouraging and positive.

I’ve been working with the community for the past 15 years providing reassurance to support people through their health journeys, enabling them to get answers to all their questions.  It’s very fulfilling and rewarding to play a vital role and a physical presence in communities with language barriers to encourage uptake of the vaccination.  Once people have had their vaccine, it’s great to see them calling their family and friends to come along and have their vaccine too”

Mohamed Elmi

You only realise the severity of a calamity when it comes closer to your door. The impact has struck me especially on witnessing its victims from close friends, acquaintances and members of my extended family. In particular seemingly healthy people who have passed away. It has proved to be a fatal and serious disease depriving the lives and wellbeing of the society.

So we need to continue to strive to raise the awareness in our communities for their own safety and that of the public at large. It is pleasing recently to experience more and more of my clients approaching me for support as they are eager to get vaccinated. It is very helpful that vaccination clinics are being brought to the communities’ settings and I believe this will further encourage uptake”

Dr Suhail Asghar works in NHS Blood and Transplant in Bristol. He is chairman of 1st Bristol Muslim scouts group and a trustee of Shahporan Islamic centre Southmead, a registered charity working for BAME and Muslim communities

We all have suffered a lot during last 16 months.  We have lost friends and many people from BAME community are affected with significant COVID-19 symptoms.  There is a hope for us to protect ourselves and our families to take COVID-19 vaccine.  We are fortunate that our government is offering free vaccine to any adult above 18 years of age.   Once we have COVID-19 vaccines in a significant numbers in our community, risk of transmission will automatically decrease and our normal activities can resume sooner.  Please do not miss a change to have vaccine as soon as it is offered to you.”

Community leaders who recently had their COVID19 vaccinations at Eastville medical centre talk about their reasons for choosing to have the COVD19 vaccine:

Clemence Neelankavil is a Clinical Endoscopist in North Bristol NHS Trust.  He has lived in Bristol for 20 years and over that time has been involved in charitable activities providing events and sports to benefit the Asian community. He is media lead for a charitable organisation in Birmingham and during the Covid pandemic worked tirelessly to help both the Asian and English communities. At present he is doing Ministries all around the world through different media platforms.

“Working in a hospital set up for the last 25 years and facing few pandemics, I reassure you that it is the health education and support which beats these challenges. This is why I have decided to work tirelessly on this project. Immunization is the process whereby a person is made resistant to an infectious disease, typically usually by the administration of a vaccine. The agent in a vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and “remember” it. In this way, the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms it encounters in the future. Immunization has proven to be successful. Scientists have made remarkable achievements, spending days and nights, and it is our turn to support them and the world. Unless our whole World gets vaccinated it is never going to be safe place to live. We are sharing our valuable time to support you – please be part of it. Prevent transmission – Prevent death”


'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


Transport to vaccination sites

Information to help you get to your COVID-19 vaccination appointment

Travelling to your vaccination appointment at Ashton Gate or community pharmacy:

If you have received a letter from the national booking team inviting you to have your COVID-19 vaccination at either Ashton Gate or a community pharmacy but you are unable to get to any of these sites, you have the option of waiting to be contacted by your GP to arrange an appointment at a local practice site.

Alternatively, you may be eligible for NHS Volunteer Responder Transport to take you to your appointment at Ashton Gate vaccination centre. For this service, you will need to be referred through either your GP or local community organisation.

Some taxi firms offer reduced price fares to the Ashton Gate vaccination centre, though none of these offers are directly endorsed by the NHS or our partners.  Offers include Uber, using the promotion code Uber2hubUK to secure £15 off a fare starting or finishing at Ashton Gate before the end of May.

Travelling to your vaccination appointment at your local GP vaccination centre:

If you would prefer to wait to be vaccinated at your local GP led vaccination centre there may be community transport options available through your local practice. There will generally be a charge but it will be a nominal fee, and normally about a third of the cost of a taxi, however some local arrangements may be different.

The Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership (HWCP), commissioned by Bristol City Council, provide a local community transport service known as the CATT Community Bus and are providing transport for vaccinations. You do not need to be a member of CATT to receive this service.

Full list of clinics receiving this service and their contact details to book.

Please note: community transport providers are unable to transport people to the Ashton Gate vaccination centre.

Housebound patients:

If you are registered housebound then your GP practice will arrange to come to you.

Full list of community transport providers at each Primary Care Network (PCN) and GP practice and their contact details (PDF)


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.