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.

 


Health services launch Covid Virtual Ward to improve home-based care for people with suspected Coronavirus!

Staff at community healthcare provider Sirona care & health are using the pulse oximeter devices to monitor at-risk individuals including those with long-term health conditions and people with learning disabilities, and intervene if their oxygen levels fall below a certain threshold.

The pulse oximeter scheme is the first step in the roll-out of a comprehensive virtual ward approach in the area, which in time will allow community staff to provide a range of services to people living in their own homes as well as residential care settings. Other conditions considered for roll-out in the coming months as part of the scheme may include people suffering from chronic heart failure, physiotherapies that can be supported at home and the limited use of home oxygen provision if clinically appropriate.

Pulse oximeter devices clip on a patient’s finger and use light beams to analyse blood oxygen levels. This data will be monitored by care home or community healthcare staff, and flagged for onward referral to GPs, or out-of-hours health services, if readings give cause for concern. The Covid Virtual Ward is also now supported by a fully automated digital app that records an individual’s oxygen levels, and then feeds this data to a remote ‘dashboard’ that can be monitored by healthcare professionals. This remote approach will allow for earlier intervention for people at risk of silent hypoxia, as well as helping healthcare partners tackle Coronavirus surges across the area.

Reduced oxygen levels are associated with a much higher risk of dying from Coronavirus or suffering in the longer term, but some people do not display symptoms, such as shortness of breath, until their oxygen levels are dangerously low. The pulse oximeters allow earlier detection of this condition, known as ‘silent hypoxia’, leading to better health outcomes and reducing the length of time people need to stay in hospital.

Dr Geeta Iyer is one of the local GPs leading the roll-out of the new scheme in partnership with Sirona care & health and local hospitals. She said:

"This is a fantastic scheme that has the potential to transform how, and where, we care for vulnerable people who have Coronavirus.

"Silent hypoxia is a significant risk for those with Coronavirus from older generations and who have an existing health condition. Where people in these at-risk groups are admitted to hospital with blood oxygen levels below 92%, they are much more likely to require invasive ventilation techniques and to stay longer in hospital. Sadly, individuals in these circumstances are also at greater risk of dying from Coronavirus."

Ceridwen Massey, Sirona’s Associate Director for Specialist Services, added:

"As a health and care system, we want to be able to intervene earlier when people’s oxygen levels start to fall and the oximetry devices, supported by community healthcare services, allow us to do that without needing to admit an individual to hospital or keep them in hospital just to be monitored. We all know people recover best in their own home and this enables individuals to be with their loved ones but we are also able to keep an eye on their blood oxygen levels.

"It’s a really exciting development that will allow us to improve care for local people and ultimately save lives."

Sirona is currently deploying up to 3,000 devices to local people by using an army of NHS volunteers.

The service currently covers people diagnosed with Covid, over 65 and symptomatic, or under 65 and clinically extremely vulnerable group or on the Learning Disabilities register. However, following this initial approach, clinicians are keen to roll this service out to wider populations across Bristol North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.


Local hospitals boosted by extra diagnostic capacity

The NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) will be able to carry out more diagnostic tests for local people after signing a new 12 month contract with UK Biobank - a large-scale biomedical database and research resource.

On 7 December, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) and North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) joined together to provide up to 150 MRI scans per week for the NHS at UK Biobank’s Filton facility, representing a 15% increase in local diagnostic capacity. The extra capacity comes at a time when hospital services have been significantly impacted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

This extra capacity will focus on less complex scanning, but include specialities such as musculoskeletal and neurological scanning.

The leasing of the Filton imaging assessment centre by the NHS has been achieved through close partnership working between the CCG, UHBW and NBT and will be run in partnership by local staff from both hospital trusts.

Robert Woolley, who is University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive and is overseeing a programme to ensure delivery of rapid and timely diagnostic services for BNSSG, said:

“This is welcome news and a result of the fantastic collaboration between staff working together for the benefit of local people.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on our existing scanning capacity and while we have been working hard to prioritise people most in need, this extra resource will help reduce waiting times for scans.

“We know that early diagnosis is imperative for the successful treatment of many conditions, and therefore continue to remind people that NHS services are available if you have a health concern that you are worried about.”

Gareth Gregory, Chief Finance Officer for UK Biobank, said:

“We are delighted that our new imaging facility will be used to ease some of the pressures faced by the NHS through this difficult period.

“Whilst our multi-organ scanning project is on hold, our skilled team are eager to help increase local scanning capacity to benefit the local people of Bristol and its surrounding region, who have always supported our research very generously.”

UK Biobank’s Filton facility will provide a state of the art resource for people to receive diagnostic tests away from a hospital setting. Systems are linked to those at UHBW and NBT to ensure teams have easy access to the images from the centre. The unit is supported and managed by clinical teams at NBT and UHBW together to ensure that the same excellent service will be received as at the acute hospitals.

No coronavirus patients will be referred to this facility, but the site will continue to operate with strict infection prevention control measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Diagnostic scans will continue at existing UHBW and NBT sites with patients referred to the Filton facility depending on their individual needs.


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:

 


Survey shows people's experience of health and care services during lockdown

A new Healthier Together survey shows local people’s experience of lockdown and their views on future health and care services.  A total of 361 people across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire responded to the survey which is the latest in a regular series known as the Citizens’ Panel.

A series of wide-ranging questions explored people’s latest attitudes to health and care, their lifestyle changes during the coronavirus lockdown, and experience of remote consultations.

Concerns about individuals' and their families’ physical and mental health continue to be high, with the survey showing over half of panellists continue to feel uncertain. Under 44’s reported greater feelings of stress and boredom, while those with long term conditions report stronger negative feelings in almost every case.

In terms of behaviour, around one third of panellists have increased physical activity levels and cooked more regularly in the past three months, but a similar proportion of people also report sleeping less. Around 6 in 10 panellists have made use of at least one health and care service in the past three months.

For those who have used primary care, community care, mental health and outpatient services in the last three months, the main format was via telephone with only 1 in 10 using video. However, for people who have had a remote consultation, levels of satisfaction are high with 7 in 10 people likely to use a remote consultation again in the future.

Topics covered in the full report also include attitudes to ‘remote by default’ consultations, concerns about a second wave of  coronavirus, and winter flu vaccinations. A short infographic summary is also available to view.

 


CAREERS: Online health and care events coming soon

Two online careers events are planned to showcase opportunities in health and social care in the Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire area.

The first, taking place on Wednesday 12 August, is titled Find Your Purpose: Become a Nurse and will be streamed on Facebook Live at 10am.

It is hosted by the Healthier Together partnership and will include information and discussion on nursing degree programmes now available.

A number of places on nursing programmes will start in September making this a great time to hear from nurses about their own job experiences including tackling the local COVID-19 response.  Planned speakers will include registered nurses, student nurses, placement officers, UWE, and a senior nurse.

Click here to reserve your place for 12 August.

The second event, on Tuesday 18 August, is a virtual careers event showcasing all the current and future vacancies available across a wide range of local health and care organisations.

This will focus on providing young people with the information and support they need to start a career journey in health and social care. It will feature speakers from hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries, the apprenticeship service, and community care.

Both events will allow you to hear from staff and employers about exciting roles.  You will be able to ask questions, connect with organisations, and build the knowledge you need to progress.

These events are not age limited but will particularly benefit 16 to 24 year olds within the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucester region.

Click here to reserve your place for 18 August.


COVID-19: Thank you and next steps for health and care

To everyone in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire,

We wrote to you a month ago to thank you for all you had done to support health and social care in our area in the fight against coronavirus.

Now we are approaching the next phase in the Government’s management of the crisis, we wanted to update you on what you can expect from health services over the coming months.

But first, we wanted to reiterate our gratitude; this weekend marks the 72nd anniversary of the NHS and social care, which represents an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on the past four months.

This has been the most challenging period in our NHS’s history. This illness has seen many of us lose loved ones before their time and our thoughts and sympathies are with all who are mourning the loss of friends and family and we will be using the anniversary this weekend to remember those people.

The anniversary is also an opportunity for us to say a resounding ‘thank you’. Not just to our dedicated health and social care staff, who have worked tirelessly in challenging circumstances to fight this pandemic, but also to all other key workers and you, the residents of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Alongside this anniversary, this weekend also marks the most significant relaxation of the rules regarding social distancing and lockdown since the pandemic was declared in March. We thoroughly support the need to reopen services and get our communities thriving again, but the threat from the virus remains.

Please continue to:

  • Observe social distancing
  • Maintain regular hand-washing
  • Wear face-coverings in all health and care settings to protect you and those around you

Current restrictive measures are causing harm to people’s wellbeing, livelihoods and wider health. We must now find a way to adapt to a new reality, one where society can return to normal as far as possible while also continuing to protect against the spread of the disease.

This week, each of our councils has published a Local Outbreak Management Plan. These plans will be the mechanism by which we anticipate, prevent and respond to local incidents and outbreaks and which enable us all to move forward safely. Links to these plans are included at the back of this letter.

Shielding

Although the shielding process will be paused in the coming weeks, we recognise many people who had been isolating during this period will continue to need support to get back to normal life. Help and support for people who are shielding will remain in place over the summer but we also urge you to continue to look out for friends and neighbours.

Your Voice and Your Wellbeing

Through our engagement activity, we have heard that more than half of our population is anxious or worried and, as a result we are prioritising mental health and wellbeing support in the coming months. We have also heard that many of you have embraced the opportunity to access health and care services remotely and we will be building on that as services are reinstated.

Re-opening services and changes to care

Already many of the routine and non-urgent health services that were temporarily paused during the lockdown have begun to reopen and over the coming weeks more will be reinstated. We are looking at this carefully, and prioritising the most urgent cases first. However, we can’t simply return to the way services were run before. We now need to work differently to account for the additional pressures of coronavirus.

This means over the coming months you will see changes to the way we work. Your safety is our first priority, and we are working hard to ensure that every health and care setting in our area is well prepared in terms of distancing, protective equipment and other measures. Already there has been greater emphasis on the use of digital tools in healthcare to enable you to get help and advice quickly and remotely, often without the need to attend a physical setting. When you do need to be seen in person, we will ask you to wear a face-covering and you can expect to be treated by clinicians wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

We remain committed to providing you with the highest quality health and care services. However the changes required to maintain safety and protect people from the ongoing threat of coronavirus, means you may now experience longer waits, or the way we manage your condition may be different.

It is important for us all that you continue to look after your health and wellbeing. We have provided further information, signposting and guidance on the back page.

We will continue to share information with you over the coming weeks and months and if you do come into contact with our services we will inform you about any new requirements put in place. We will publish regular updates on the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire website.

We are always keen to hear from you and would encourage anyone with concerns to get in touch using our online contact form.

Thank you

On Behalf of the Executives in Healthier Together

 

 

Here’s how to continue helping us, to help you

  • Follow government advice:
    • observe social distancing (where possible stay 2 metres apart and always aim to maintain the 1 metre plus rule)
    • wash your hands regularly
    • use the hand sanitiser provided in shops and other public settings
    • don’t touch your face
    • wear a face covering in all healthcare settings and on public transport, as well as areas where social distancing is difficult
  • If you have a continuous cough or fever, or unusually lose your sense of taste or smell then self-isolate and call 111 if you need further advice or help.
  • Don’t sit and worry – ring 111 for medical help or contact the wellbeing support line run by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership on 0300 303 1320.
  • If you need medical help, call your registered GP practice or ring 111.
  • Call 999 for all medical emergencies.
  • 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 or visit a pharmacy.
  • 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.
  • Only go to A&E if you experience a medical emergency or if 111 or your GP has advised you to do so.
  • As rules around shielding are relaxed in the coming weeks, please continue to look out for friends and neighbours.
  • Read more about the local Outbreak Management Plans for Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.
  • There is helpful advice on how to keep well while shielding on the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG website.
  • If you are isolating or require additional support, you can continue to contact contact the following numbers for community support:

Bristol:  We are Bristol: 0800 694 0184

North Somerset: North Somerset Together: 01934 427 437

South Gloucestershire: 0800 953 7778


Local organisations rally to provide Personal Protective Equipment for frontline staff

Thousands of pieces donated with more requested

Thousands of pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been donated to enhance local supplies for essential workers across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) following a plea by the Regional Mayor Tim Bowles and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) on behalf of local health and care organisations.

More than a hundred local organisations have offered their support and donated the equipment, which will be used in health and care settings in the area including hospitals and care homes.

The items, which include masks, visors, gloves and gowns have been donated by a broad range of organisations including universities, engineering companies, house builders, 3D printing firms, and even hairdressers.

The offers of support come in the wake of a worldwide spike in demand for PPE as frontline services across the globe respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Efforts to build local and national stocks are ongoing and while regular deliveries mean most hospitals and primary care facilities have an adequate supply, additional donations which build local resilience and contingency are now welcome and being put to good use.

So far, more than 125 local organisations have pledged their support with significant contributions ranging from offers of free protective items, to offers to switch production to the manufacture of PPE.

Local donations include:

  • 8,700 examination gloves, 1,400 aprons and other equipment including face visor manufacture from UWE
  • 7,400 surgical masks and 10,000 N95-rated masks from Viper Innovations
  • 2,000 examination gloves, 500 masks, 50 coveralls, 35 pairs of safety glasses from The Bristol Port Company
  • 1,000 pairs of gloves, 1,000 masks and 8 litres of sanitising hand gel from Make Venues
  • 18,000 face visors from 3DCrowd.uk

Across BNSSG, all PPE donations are welcome with IIR-rated fluid-resistant surgical masks, visors and gowns in particularly high demand for health and care workers.

Steve Sandercock, for the Healthier Together partnership, says: “I would like to extend a huge vote of thanks for all these contributions which are making a real difference.  It is great to see local organisations stepping up to offer their support and making a practical difference, but also giving us a huge morale boost during this difficult time. Although we have established a good supply of PPE to health and care organisations in the area, the demand for protective equipment remains at an all-time high, so we would like to encourage local businesses and organisations to continue their generous support.”

Regional Mayor Tim Bowles says: “Thank you to the many businesses, large and small, who have come forward to help our region’s incredible frontline health and social care workers. This has always been a region where people and businesses work together to support each other, and this has never been more important than at this time of national need. So if your business is able to help, please do get in touch.”

Chris Hart, of the Faculty of the Environment and Technology at UWE says: "We were very pleased to be able to offer our complete stock of PPE to the NHS as it was quickly realised that frontline healthcare workers needed it urgently. It has been a great morale booster for our staff, who were keen to make a contribution, and I would encourage other businesses and institutions to look at their own stocks, facilities and capacity."

Neil Douglas, Managing Director of Viper Innovations says: “We really appreciate what our local key workers are doing in the community during this crisis and are very pleased to be able to support them in this way. We would like to encourage other local businesses to get involved in helping this cause.”

Alongside the larger contributors, many community and volunteer organisations have also been making and supplying PPE for use across Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire.  Potential providers are urged make contact first to find out what items are needed along with specifications, such as material and sizes.

Anyone wanting to contribute to the local PPE appeal should contact bnssg.supportoffer@nhs.net


Health and care leaders issue open letter to local people: ‘thank you for all you’ve done - and we must keep going’

Health and care leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have today issued an open letter to everyone across the area. The letter - signed by NHS, council and community organisations – thanks local people for observing the coronavirus advice so far, and urges everyone to continue to follow government guidelines to protect themselves and health and care staff.

Since the pandemic began, local NHS and care services have had to radically change the way they operate, in order to provide care for people in new ways.

Local people have adapted to the new ways of working, with thousands taking up virtual medical appointments that would normally have taken place in person. There have been fewer attendances to emergency departments for minor conditions as more people use the Minor Injury Units and Urgent Treatment centres in Yate, Bristol and Clevedon.

This has led health and care staff across the area to launch a ‘reverse clap’ ahead of tonight’s #ClapForCarers – thanking local people for their support in recent weeks, and for helping to keep them safe by looking after their own health and wellbeing.

Local leaders are clear that while this represents real progress, it remains crucial that people continue to follow guidance – to protect themselves and their local services.

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

“We want to thank everyone across our area for following the guidance and using local services responsibly.

It’s clear that coronavirus will be with us for some time yet, and we must keep going – by observing social distancing measures, self-isolating while experiencing symptoms of the virus and practising good hand hygiene. These continue to be the best ways to reduce the spread of the virus, which is critical for population health, as well as ensuring that local services can cope.

In the coming weeks we will be restarting routine services in a way which is safe for patients and staff. The more we control the spread of the virus in the population, the better able we will be to get normal services up and running again.

Cllr Mike Bell, Deputy Leader of North Somerset Council and executive member for adult social care said: “We are hugely grateful to everyone in North Somerset for observing the guidance so far. While our infection rates in the South West are relatively low compared to other parts of the country, there are some areas – namely, in our care homes – where we still face real challenges.

“Reducing the spread of the virus remains vital to protect our most vulnerable residents. We need everyone to stay the course with the guidance, and to continue to get support from the right places.”

The letter sets out a range of support available locally, including community mutual aid for vulnerable groups and where to seek support for mental health concerns. You can read the full letter here.