'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

We have put together the following 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. For this service, you will need to be referred through either your GP or local community organisation.

Taxi firm Uber is also offering to cover £15 off trips to and from the Ashton Gate vaccination centre up until 28 February 2021 using Promo Code UberUKAG: Helping to vaccinate the UK – Uber Blog

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.

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.

A full list of community transport providers at each Primary Care Network (PCN) and GP practice and their contact details can be found here.


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.


COVID-19: Patient and Family Covid Stories

Patient and Family Covid Stories

This series of video diaries represents some of the people and communities of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.  They are real-life accounts of coronavirus which range from catching it, to living with it, and losing loved ones – all seen through the eyes of everyday people.

Our video makers speak from the heart and give an insight to how their worlds have changed since the pandemic began.  They talk candidly and give advice on what we can all do to help in the fight: from staying positive to following the rules on Hands:Face:Space.

Our thanks and respect to all those on film for taking the time to share their stories.

Denise's Story

Care Home Story

Abdul's Story

Mark's Story

Liz's Story

Nigel's Story

Jenny's Story

John's Story

Zahra's Story


COVID-19: Covid Stories

Covid Stories: bringing to life the stark reality of coronavirus

Covid Stories tells the real-life stories behind the headline statistics.  Everyday people, living through extraordinary times, talking about the impact coronavirus has had on them, their lives, and their loved ones.

This is a series of eyewitness accounts, sometimes filmed by individuals ‘selfie-style’ and sometimes shot by a cameraman, recording what happened to them, how they have coped, and their hopes for the future.

All of our video volunteers live or work in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. One thing they have in common is a clear and simple message: for everyone to keep following Government guidelines to help protect ourselves and each other from coronavirus over the coming months.

The first set of videos features patients and family members.  We hear from Denise, who lost her husband Steve to coronavirus.  Imogen and Marianne tell us what it is like working in a care home.  Abdul talks of the need to stay positive, while Zahra tells us how having covid reminded her of malaria as a child.

The second set of videos reveal health and care staff, some working on the front line, sharing their work and home lives.  Katrina offers a glimpse of her challenging work as a respiratory consultant at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Dr Caroline talks of the pressure in primary care, and Jo who works for Sirona care & health uses verse to share her message of hope.

Our thanks and respect go to all those featured on these pages, for taking the time to share their stories during difficult times, in the hope that we can all better understand the human cost of coronavirus and how we can all help to fight it.


COVID-19: Staff Covid Stories

Staff Covid Stories

These video diaries are an eyewitness account of what it’s like for staff working in health and care – some of them on the front line – in the fight against covid.  These staff all have direct experience of the pandemic; whether it’s working hard to look after their patients or witnessing the impact of covid on their loved ones.

Together these videos are part of a multi-agency ‘covid stories’ campaign with Healthier Together partners and Avon and Somerset Police, aimed at demonstrating what it’s really like for those working during the pandemic.  By sharing these first-hand stories on video, we hope that understanding of covid will grow, along with empathy and kindness towards health and care professionals.

Our thanks and respect to all those featured on this page for taking the time to film their experience of the covid pandemic.

Katrina's Story

Caroline's Story

The Minor Injury Unit

Rebecca's Story

Jo's Story

Richard's story

Philippa's Story

More staff stories will be added here soon.  Keep checking back!


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.