Local health and care faces increasing pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NHS calls on people and communities to do their bit in the fight against coronavirus

NHS and Council leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are today (12 November) urging people to support stretched services as local coronavirus cases rise – by looking out for vulnerable loved ones, and being ready to collect relatives from hospital as soon as they are medically well enough to leave.

Local health and care leaders say that extra help to avoid hospital admissions and get people home, or to another community setting, sooner could make a big difference - for those receiving care and services facing pressure.

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

“The rising number of coronavirus cases locally, combined with the onset of the usual winter pressures, means our hospitals and community services are stretched.

“While we have strong processes in place to manage the increase in demand, we’re calling on the public to help too.

“There’s an exceptionally strong community spirit in our area. People have been doing a phenomenal job throughout the pandemic in looking out for neighbours, relatives, and the frail and elderly.

“As we see a resurgence of coronavirus, we’re asking people to keep this going. Check on what clinically vulnerable relatives might need to stay well at home, and be ready to collect your loved ones from hospital as soon as they are medically fit to leave.

“In many cases, your best bed is your own in terms of recovery and retaining independence. It’s more important than ever that our hospital beds are available for those who really need them.”

Healthier Together – the partnership representing 10 organisations across BNSSG, including NHS Trusts and local authorities – recently put a range of additional measures in place to alleviate pressure on health and care services, including restarting a telephone support service to reduce hospital admissions and additional support for care homes.

A new communications campaign will launch across the area’s health and care settings this week, reminding family and friends of what they can do to support their loved ones and local services.

Open Letter from Healthier Together Executives

To everyone in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire,

Thank you for doing everything you can to keep yourselves and each other safe.

We want to thank you again for doing everything you can to protect yourselves and our communities from coronavirus, and update you on some key changes following the second national lockdown which began last week.

Our hospitals are seeing high demand, and we have had to cancel a number of non-urgent routine procedures and outpatient appointments as a result. We are very sorry if you are one of the individuals affected. This is an exceptional step we have taken to manage demand on services as coronavirus cases increase.

We have strong plans in place to manage the pressure on services, and we need everyone to continue to do their bit. Please:

  • Observe social distancing and maintain regular hand-washing.
  • Wear face-coverings in all health and care settings and anywhere else you need to, for example shops and on public transport.
  • Check-in on and support high-risk family members where you can. Your support can make a huge difference.
  • Ensure you are able to collect relatives from hospital as soon as they are medically well enough to be discharged.
  • Attend your appointments on time - being early may mean having to wait outside.
  • Do not come to see us in person if you have coronavirus symptoms. If you have a booked appointment, call the service and they will support you with next steps.

While we are entering another challenging time, the NHS and care services are still very much open – please do not ignore or put aside any concerns. You can:

  • Use 111 to access urgent medical advice when you’re not sure what to do.
  • Contact your GP (doctors) surgery. GPs continue to provide face to face appointments, as well as offering thousands of online and telephone appointments a week.
  • Use your local pharmacy. Pharmacists can offer a range of support for minor conditions, including prescribing some medicines.
  • Use the Minor Injuries Units in Yate and Clevedon, and the Urgent Treatment Centre in South Bristol for sprains, broken bones, minor burns and scalds.
  • Use A&E or call 999 only in the event of medical emergencies.
  • Let us know if you can no longer attend an appointment.
  • Contact your local council or care provider if you have any concerns about social care.

Some changes have also been made to visiting arrangements across our services to keep you and your loved ones safe. Please check the website of the place you are visiting.

We know it’s a challenging time. Our teams are working hard to support you, and while you may be more anxious and concerned than usual, please treat the staff caring for you with kindness and respect. It’s important that we all continue to support each other.

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 group you can access a flu vaccine free through your GP practice or pharmacy. If you’re unable to get an immediate appointment, please keep trying or book in for a later date.
  • Your health and mental 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: www.nextlinkhousing.co.uk


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Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic group residents urged to take up flu vaccination

Health leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are urging local Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) residents to take up the free NHS flu jab if offered it by their GP.

GPs and pharmacists have issued the call following concerns that take-up of the vaccine may be lower among vulnerable BAME residents including over-65s and people with long-term health conditions.

To support the message, health partners have worked with Bedminster Community Pharmacist Ade Williams and Shiren Mohamed Goush of the Bristol Muslim Strategic Leadership Group to produce a new social media video discussing the benefits and importance of the flu vaccine for BAME residents.

Dr Shaba Nabi, local GP and clinical lead for prescribing at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:

“Flu is an unpleasant but short term illness for most people. However, it can also lead to serious illness for vulnerable people and causes thousands of hospitalisations and deaths in the UK every year.

“So far this year, we have seen a lower flu vaccination uptake among more vulnerable people from some BAME communities. People from BAME communities are already more vulnerable to coronavirus, and you’re more likely to be severely ill or die if you catch both coronavirus and flu at the same time. Therefore, it’s even more important that eligible people from BAME communities receive their vaccinations this year.

Deputy Mayor of Bristol, Asher Craig said: “It is all of our responsibility here in Bristol this winter to protect the most vulnerable in our community, and minimise hospitalisations due to flu to reduce demand on our already stretched NHS.

“So far, we have witnessed a lower take-up of the flu jab in some vulnerable groups within our BAME communities. I therefore urge everybody who is eligible for an NHS flu vaccine to receive it with confidence. It only takes a few minutes to receive, and it will save lives here in our city.”

Ade Williams, lead pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy and Public Health England Vaccination Champion, said: “This year, our main aim is to make it as easy as possible to get the flu vaccine. GPs and pharmacists will take all necessary measures to make sure the vaccine is given in a safe environment. Venues are regularly cleaned, staff will wear protective equipment and social distancing will be in place.”

Shiren Mohamed Goush of the Bristol Muslim Strategic Leadership Group said: “Being involved in the creation of this video gave me a really clear understanding of the importance of the flu vaccine, especially for people who are more at risk from the virus.

“I encourage people who aren’t quite sure about getting the vaccine, to take a few minutes to watch the video and find out more.”

Over-65s, people with long-term health conditions and pregnant women are all being offered the flu jab by their GP, while primary school children will receive the nasal spray vaccination via their school.

And this year children in school year 7 (ages 11 to 12), household contacts of people on the NHS shielded patient list and frontline health and social care workers are also eligible for the jab.

Those eligible for a free jab on the NHS can also get their vaccination from participating pharmacists.

GP surgeries and pharmacists are taking all necessary measures to make sure the flu vaccine is given in a safe environment, and social distancing and safety measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Here is the video featuring Shiren and Ade in conversation:


Changes to visiting guidance for maternity services

Maternity services at North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) have updated their visiting guidance from today.
The changes are in response to the rise in coronavirus cases in the area and to maintain the safety of women, babies and staff.
Introducing the same maternity visiting guidance at NBT, which runs Southmead Hospital and Cossham Birth Centre, and UHBW, which runs St Michael’s Hospital and Ashcombe Birth Centre at Weston General Hospital, will help to ensure a consistent approach for women at whichever hospital they choose to give birth.
The current guidance for maternity services at Southmead, Cossham Birth Centre, St Michael’s and Ashcombe Birth Centre is:
Scans: Women can be accompanied by one non-symptomatic person (ideally the birth partner) for their first trimester (12 week) scan and some specialist scans for fetal medicine. Find out more about the guidance around scans at UHBW here and at NBT here.
Labour and birth: A nominated non-symptomatic birthing partner is allowed to accompany women during labour and the birth.
Visiting: No visitors are permitted on the maternity wards.
Neonatal care visiting: If your baby needs to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) please see the guidance for each organisation. The guidance for NBT can be found here and the guidance for UHBW can be found here.
There will be circumstances where it is appropriate for exceptions to be made, for example where patients need additional compassionate support. If you are a maternity patient who is affected by these changes, please contact your midwife who will be happy to discuss your individual situation and agree exceptions where possible.
The full maternity visiting guidance for NBT can be found here and the full guidance for UHBW can be found here.
Helen Blanchard, director of nursing and quality at NBT, said: “We understand that this is not the experience of pregnancy that most pregnant women and their families had anticipated – and it’s not the experience our midwives want for them either.
“But with community infection rates rising significantly, the last thing we want is for hospital infection rates to increase.
“Therefore – for the safety of every woman, every baby and every member of staff – we reluctantly need to limit the amount of people in the hospital at all times.
“There will always be lots of support available for pregnant women, including from your midwife who is on this journey with you and is committed to giving woman-centred care. We also have great WIFI facilities in our hospitals and are more than happy for women to have their partner or loved one present via video call.
“We know that this is a challenging time for everyone but we hope people will understand that this decision is necessary to keep everyone safe.”
Carolyn Mills, chief nurse at UHBW, added: “We fully recognise that these changes may be upsetting for many of our pregnant women and their families as they journey through their pregnancy and approach delivery.
“However, we hope they will understand that these temporary changes are necessary to protect all women and their babies and the dedicated staff committed to providing the best care possible.
“We would urge all our pregnant women to continue to attend scheduled antenatal appointments whether face-to-face or by telephone to ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery.
“The priority of maternity services is to keep pregnant women and their babies safe. We know that reducing visiting access is incredibly difficult for our pregnant women, their partners and families. These decisions are not taken lightly and we will keep the guidance under constant review.
“There is lots of support available for pregnant women and if you are using our maternity services and have any questions, concerns or particular needs that need to be taken into account, please do speak to your maternity unit’s matron or your community midwife.”
The full maternity visiting guidance for NBT can be found here and the full guidance for UHBW can be found here.

New national lockdown: advice and information

As announced by the Prime Minister on 31 October 2020, there will be a new national lockdown commencing from Thursday 5 November in response to a rise in cases of coronavirus.

For now, please continue to attend appointments as advised. You don’t need to call to check that a booked appointment is going ahead. We will be in touch if anything changes with your care.

If you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, please use the government portal to book a test. It is important that you and anyone you live with continue to self-isolate until you get a test result. You can find more information, support and guidance on testing here.

  • Think Hands, Face, Space - washing your hands regularly, using a face mask in areas where social distancing is difficult, and keeping 2 metres’ space between you and others will all help to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • If you have a continuous cough or fever, self-isolate and contact 111 if you need further advice or help.
  • If you need medical help, please contact your registered GP practice or 111. Support can be accessed online at 111.nhs.uk or you can call 111 for free form your landline or phone.
  • The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership wellbeing line is open 24 hours a day for mental health and emotional wellbeing support: 0300 303 1320.
  • Please only call 999 in the event of a medical emergency. Only go to A&E if you experience a medical emergency or if 111 or your GP has advised you to do so.
  • For minor injuries, the Minor Injury Units in Yate and Clevedon and Urgent Treatment Centre in South Bristol are open between 8am and 8pm. For minor illnesses, please contact your GP practice.
  • 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.
  • If you are self-isolating or require additional support, contact the following numbers to be put in touch with local groups who can help with fetching shopping, medication and other essentials supplies, as well as other mutual aid:
    • Bristol: We are Bristol: 0800 694 0184
    • North Somerset: North Somerset Together: 01934 427 437
    • South Gloucestershire: 0800 953 7778

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Local health and care leaders take action in response to rise in coronavirus cases

Health and care leaders in BNSSG are bringing in additional support measures from Monday (2 November) to ensure that local services are better able to cope with increasing demand as a result of the recent rise in coronavirus cases.

The measures - designed to protect people and make best use of resources across the health and care system – include:

  • Faster discharge for all hospital admissions, ensuring that people leave hospital as soon as they are medically fit to do so. Community support will be available to ensure this takes place safely.
  • Enhanced mutual aid support between organisations, allowing staff to work more flexibly across settings and where resource is most needed.
  • Restarting a telephone support service to help avoid hospital admissions.

There will also be further wraparound support available for the area’s care homes.

The Healthier Together Partnership – made up of 10 organisations including NHS and Local Authorities – outlined the approach in a message to 42,000 health and care staff earlier today.

Evelyn Barker, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at North Bristol NHS Trust, said:

"We are seeing a significant rise in coronavirus cases locally, and this is resulting in greater demand on services. If the virus continues to spread at this rate, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain our routine non-Covid services, which is why we are taking additional action now.

"The public can do their bit by using the most appropriate service for their needs – whether that’s their local GP practice, Minor Injuries Unit, Urgent Treatment Centre or pharmacy - and avoiding A&E unless absolutely necessary.

"Families can also play their part by supporting their loved ones to return to their home or other community setting as soon as they are ready to leave hospital."

Christina Gray, Director of Public Health for Bristol City Council, said:

“We are seeing significant pressure on our health and care system with increasing numbers of people in hospital or being cared for with severe coronavirus symptoms. Our health and care colleagues continue to do a fantastic job in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, putting themselves at risk as they do so.

"We must all now step up our efforts to support them. We can do this by helping drive down the spread of the virus by limiting the amount of people we socialise with, wear a mask when needed, regularly wash hands and keep at least two metres from those we don’t live with.

“If you start to experience symptoms, including a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss or change in your sense of smell or taste, you must book a test and you, and anyone you live with, must self-isolate until you get your test result. We have increased the number of tests available so it should be much easier for people to book. You must also isolate as soon as possible if you are a contact of someone who tests positive, even if you don’t have symptoms. This is vital.

“We all must play our part in protecting the NHS, and ensuring that life-saving services are available for those who really need them.”

A new video, featuring local staff has also been created to help people understand what to expect when they visit health and care settings across the area. It includes the latest information on infection prevention control and digital access – as well as setting out what people need to do before they arrive for in-person appointments.

Keeping everyone safe

A short film has been released showing how local health and care organisations are working to keep settings safe for people across Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire. The film is a collaboration between ten organisations which make up the Healthier Together partnership.

It is a response to local research from our Citizens' Panel which shows that during the coronavirus pandemic people have grown more concerned about visiting health and care settings, from Minor Injury Units to hospitals, to seek the advice and treatment they need.

In the film, health and care staff outline some of the precautions being taken to keep patients, visitors, and staff as safe as possible.  This ranges from 'Hands Face Space' rules to video consultations and perspex screens in reception areas.

The film also outlines options available to get timely help without resorting to visiting Accident & Emergency (also known as the Emergency Department) unless it is necessary.  Help can range from seeking advice at a local pharmacy to ringing NHS111 or going online for assistance.

A comprehensive risk assessment was adopted in the making of this film, so everyone including the film-maker followed strict instructions around the use of PPE, hand sanitiser, masks, distancing, the cleaning of equipment, travel, and working in enclosed spaces.

This is the film:


Flu vaccination

Flu vaccination

Flu is a serious condition that kills thousands and hospitalizes thousands more in England each year. The flu vaccination is the best protection for you and those around you which is why it is offered for free for those most at risk.

Flu and coronavirus

Adults at high risk from flu are also most at risk from coronavirus and the free vaccine is more important than ever, to help protect the nation from a double threat this winter.

That’s why this year, the free flu vaccine is being offered to a record number of people to help protect as many as possible from flu and ease pressure on the NHS and urgent care services.

This animation explains more about flu and how getting the vaccination can help to protect you and those around you. With the help of local volunteers we have recorded the animation in 12 of the languages spoken in our community.

In this video, Shiren from the Bristol Muslim Strategic Leadership Group meets with Ade, from Bedminster Pharmacy, to discuss the importance of the flu jab for different communities.  Topics of conversation include whether the flu jab is halal, how to get it, and whether it is effective.

Below are links to the flu video’s script in a range of community languages to share with others.

How to get the flu vaccine

Ask your pharmacist or GP if you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine. If your child is at school and aged 4-11-year-old make sure you sign and return the consent form.

Changes have been made to make sure it’s safe for you to have the flu vaccine at GP surgeries and pharmacies. These changes include social distancing, hand washing and wearing protective equipment.

Adult flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is given to people who:

  • are 65 and over (including those who’ll be 65 by 31 March 2021)
  • have certain health conditions
  • are pregnant
  • are in a long-stay residential care
  • receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
  • live with someone who’s at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
    frontline health or social care workers

If you’re aged 50 to 64 and have a health condition that means you’re more at risk from flu, you should get your flu vaccine as soon as possible. Other 50 to 64 year-olds will be contacted about a flu vaccine later.

More information about the flu vaccine 

Easy-read information about the flu vaccine 

Information about the flu vaccine in multiple languages 

Children’s flu vaccine

The children’s flu vaccine is safe and effective. It’s offered every year as a nasal spray to children to help protect them against flu.

The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:

  • children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2020 – born between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2018
  • all primary school children (reception to year 6)
  • all year 7 in secondary school
  • children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions

If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years and is in a high-risk group for flu, they’ll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray.

This is because the nasal spray is not licensed for children under 2 years.

Children aged 2 to 17 years may also have the flu vaccine injection if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them.

More information about the children’s flu vaccine 

Information about the children’s flu vaccine in multiple languages 

Myth-busting with The Misfits

Just don’t let anything stop you!

On behalf of the NHS, Misfits Theatre Company tackles the misinformation surrounding the flu vaccination head on and urges people with learning disabilities and their carers (family member or support worker) to not delay, and get their free flu vaccine today.  This is the Misfits’ latest video.

COVID-19: Health and care leaders update on local progress

An open letter outlining some of the progress made in re-starting local services has been issued by health and care leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

The letter, which is signed by NHS, council and community organisations, recognises developments across a range of services from online GP appointments to home visits, community services, and hospital wards.

Despite this progress, enhanced safety precautions due to coronavirus mean there are fewer hospital beds available due to the need for extra spacing, and waiting lists for some routine procedures are likely to be longer as more time is needed for equipment deep cleaning and for staff PPE changes.

Julia Ross, Joint Healthier Together Lead Executive and Chief Executive of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“Many health and care services have now re-started and our aim is to get these services back to their pre-pandemic levels ahead of winter. The challenge is doing this in a way which keeps everyone safe.

“Keeping a lid on coronavirus is crucial in getting services working as we would like, especially looking ahead to the winter period which is traditionally a challenging time for the NHS and our partners.

“I would like to reassure people that we can and should continue to access local health and care services following the guidance provided; whether it is keeping socially distanced, wearing facemasks as directed, or good hand hygiene.”

The full open letter shares details of local services which have restarted and also references this winter’s ‘flu programme. Download the full letter below in your preferred language.

Download a copy of the open letter in English

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Download an Easyread version of the open letter