'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

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.


COVID-19 vaccine scams

Fraudulent messages relating to the COVID-19 vaccine

People who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination will be contacted by the NHS when it is their turn to be vaccinated. There are several ways that you might be contacted.

Your GP Practice

GP practices are contacting patients in the priority groups either via text message, letter or telephone call (not via email) to book their vaccination appointment. The text message will include a link that takes you to a website to book your appointment. It will not ask you for any details other than your name and date of birth.

The National Booking Centre

People in the priority groups may also receive a letter in the post from the national NHS vaccination programme. The letter includes a link to book a vaccination at either Ashton Gate Vaccination Centre or a local pharmacy. You will need your name, date of birth and your NHS number (which will be on the letter) to book your appointment. If you have already booked or had your first vaccine dose via your GP practice please ignore this letter. If you haven’t been contacted by your GP practice but would prefer to have your vaccination locally at your closest GP vaccination centre then you do not need to do anything, Your local GP practice will get in touch with you directly.

Can I contact anyone directly if I haven’t had an invitation yet?

If you are in groups 4 or above (over 70 and the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable) as set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and you haven’t had your invitation yet you can book online using your NHS number.

Fraudulent text messages and emails

We are aware there are a number of fraudulent text messages and emails in circulation linked to the COVCID-19 vaccination. These text messages and emails are claiming to be from the NHS and ask people to provide payment details to verify their eligibility for the vaccine.

Remember, the vaccine is only available on the NHS and is free of charge. The NHS will never ask you for details about your bank account or to pay for the vaccine. If you receive an email, text message or phone call purporting to be from the NHS and you
are asked to provide financial details, this is a scam:

  • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
  • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
  • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
  • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

The vaccine is free for everyone and we are working through the JCVI priority groups. Please wait to be called, there is enough vaccine for everyone who wants one and the NHS will be in touch when it is your turn.

We are on track to vaccinated everyone in groups 1-4, all people over the age of 70, all patient facing health and care workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable population by mid-February. In the coming weeks people aged over 60 and people who are clinically vulnerable (groups 5 and 6) will also be invited to be vaccinated.

How to spot a fraudulent message:

  • Look out for spelling and grammatical errors
  • Even if a message or website looks like it is from the NHS, it doesn’t mean it is authentic
  • Anything that asks for you to provide bank or payment details in a text is likely to be bogus
  • Trust your instinct – if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t
  • If in doubt, check it out

If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, please report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.

Example of a scam message

Example scam text message claiming to be from the NHS reads: “We have identified that your are eligible to apply for your vaccine. For more information and to apply follow here: link”

The message includes a link for you to follow, which takes you through to a fake NHS website that asks for your personal and payment details.

Example of a real text message about your COVID-19 vaccine

A genuine text message from a doctors surgery may include something along the lines of: “Dear Mr O’Sullivan, You have been invited to book your COVID-19 vaccinations. Please click the link to book your vaccination times: link. GPS healthcare”

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