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Welcome to the second issue of the weekly update on Covid information.

We will bring you national and local updates, with an eye on what is coming up.

GPs begin offering vaccinations

Hundreds of local vaccination services run by family doctors and their teams opened across England this week, as the roll out of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history gains further momentum.


Practices in more than 100 parts of the country took delivery of the vaccine today, with some kicking off their clinics this afternoon and the majority starting on Tuesday.

Groups of health providers are setting up local vaccination centres in villages, towns and cities covering every part of the country.

Nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other NHS staff will work alongside GPs to vaccinate those aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers and residents, identified as priority groups for the life-saving vaccine.

Along with other countries in the UK, residents of care homes in England will also receive their first vaccine later this week after distributors finalise new, stringent processes to ensure safe delivery of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine.

Like hospital staff, who launched the world-leading campaign last week, practice teams are working rapidly to redesign their sites and put in place safe processes to meet the tough logistical challenges of offering the vaccination.

The NHS will contact people in the priority groups when it is their turn to receive the vaccine.
 

Dr Nikki Kanani, practising GP and NHS Director of Primary Care, said: “GPs, nurses, pharmacists and other primary care staff are eager to play their part in protecting people against coronavirus.
 

“This is the greatest vaccination programme ever undertaken by the NHS and, to help vaccinate people safely we will be working with local communities to deliver it in convenient and familiar settings.

“As a GP I am proud to be part of this huge national effort to protect our patients against the virus and I would urge the public to come forward when they are called up for the vaccine.” 

The community sites build on the work of the scores of hospital hubs which have already started vaccinating, with 90-year old Margaret Keenan receiving her first dose to become a global trailblazer in Coventry last Tuesday.

The latest phase of the vaccine roll-out is being co-ordinated by GP-led primary care networks with more practices and community pharmacies in other parts of England joining on a phased basis during December and in the coming months.  

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs and our teams are about to embark on an enormous challenge, delivering the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the community whilst also delivering the expanded flu vaccine programme and the usual care and services our patients rely on us for.
 
“There are also logistical challenges but general practice has an excellent track record of delivering mass vaccination programmes, and we want to use this experience to help protect people from Covid-19 and start getting life back to normal again. We won’t be vaccinating everyone all at once - it will be a relatively small number at first - but as long as there is supply, GPs and our teams at selected sites will start vaccinating people this week, starting with our most vulnerable patients.
 
“Patients will be contacted and invited for vaccination - we would urge them not to contact their practice enquiring abut vaccination, we will contact them."

NHS in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes still open for patients during new restrictions
 

The Government has announced that Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes have moved to Tier 4 Very High alert restrictions from 19 December 2020 but the NHS is still advising anyone who has health concerns to contact their local NHS if they need to.
 
The new restrictions in our area will include:

  • If you live in a tier 4 area, you must stay at home. You must not leave your home to travel unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons. If you need to travel you should stay local - meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live - and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home and area include, but are not limited to:
  • work, where you cannot work from home
  • accessing education and for caring responsibilities
  • visiting those in your support bubble - or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • visiting hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • buying goods or services from premises that are open in Tier 4 areas, including essential retail, but these should be within your local area wherever possible
  • spending time or exercising outdoors. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your Tier 4 area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services

Read more about the new local restrictions in Bedfordshire here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know#very-high-alert.


Infections Rising
The rates of infection are rising across the whole of Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes with a significant rise in the 11 - 18 year old group. 

Please can everyone use all the communication channels they have to reinforce the message that -

  • It is great the vaccine is here, but this doesn't immediately solve the crisis
  • Everybody still needs to observe social distancing rules and keep their faces covered.
  • This is a marathon not a sprint - it will be many months before the virus is under control
  • Please be safe over Christmas - don't use these 5 days to risk infecting anyone in your family or spreading the disease further into the community
It is important for everyone in our communities to understand that it is their behaviour that will determine whether we get this under control or risk a further wave.

 

Last week we sent out an update from Patricia Davies about the launch of PCN vaccinations - 


Dear colleagues,
 
I wanted to drop you a line to update you on the vaccination programme, which is now being rolled out across GP-led Primary Care Networks (PCNs) across the country.
 
Here in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, our PCNs are gearing up to deliver the vaccine closer to home for the most vulnerable people within our communities.
 
Delivering the Pfizer vaccine locally is a huge logistical operation, which requires specialist fridges and handling. We have also had to put in place a dedicated workforce to ensure that residents are vaccinated in a safe and reassuring environment.
 
We need to ensure that we deliver the vaccination programme in our PCNs carefully and so we are launching our sites in waves.
 
Today, six PCNs in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes will invite their patients aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers, who have been identified as a priority group, for the vaccine. More PCN vaccination sites will follow over the coming weeks, and as more vaccinations become available, there will be more community vaccination sites for other groups.
 
Who will get the vaccine first?
Eligibility for the vaccine is decided nationally by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. The first patients to be offered the vaccine are people aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers and some high risk health care staff.
 
How will people know when it is their time to get the vaccine?
When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward to be vaccinated. For most people this will be a letter from the national NHS or contact from their GP practice. We are asking the public not to contact the NHS including their GP practice to get an appointment until they get this letter. We would be grateful if you would help us to share this message over the coming weeks.
 
What happens next?
The NHS will offer the vaccine to more groups of people and in more ways, like local vaccination services, but this will be a marathon over the coming months, not a sprint:

  • The programme will expand as we get more vaccines
  • A local recruitment campaign has been launched so help ensure there are the workforce to support this vaccination programme. The recruitment is from within and outside of the NHS and is for a range of roles from vaccinators and support staff
  • All of these will be trained, assessed and supervised

 
We will continue to keep you updated as soon as we have confirmation of the exact locations and dates.
 
In the meantime, we would ask for the support of colleagues in sharing the following messages:
 
Please do not contact your GP practice to request the vaccine. We will contact you when it’s the right time to come forward.
 
If you are invited to receive the vaccination, please act on your invite and make sure you attend your appointment;
 
Worryingly, Covid-19 infections continue to rise sharply in our area and so it has never been more important for us to urge our residents to follow national guidance around hands, face and space.
 
Please continue to ask residents to follow social distancing and hand hygiene guidance, which will help the NHS during unprecedented pressures and save lives.

Patricia Davies

Accountable Officer

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Groups
 

First community vaccinations at Sunriser Phoenix PCN

Last Tuesday saw the start of the vaccinations for over 80s delivered by some of our PCNs in Wave 1.

Phoenix Sunriser PCN in Luton, which covers nine Practices and is led by Kingsway Health Centre is just one of the surgeries that will be contacting eligible patients for vaccination.

Fully  trained vaccinators will be administering the jab at the Beech Hill Methodist Church, which is next door to the Kingsway Practice, to ensure there is plenty of room for social distancing when waiting, as well as a recovery area, where people will be monitored for 15 minutes after the vaccination.

John Fraser was the first person to be vaccinated at Kingsway. A long term resident of Luton, who worked at Vauxhall he was delighted to receive the vaccine and said "Because of this virus you don't know who is going to be the next person!"

As part of our efforts to reinforce messages to our communities we are compiling case studies of people who have had COVID, or are still suffering from Long COVID. It is important that everyone has the opportunity to hear from people in their own areas of the effect this virus has, and the potential long term effects.

Can you help us find people who would be willing to tell their story? If you know someone who would like to help us get the messages out there please email bedsccg.communications@nhs.net

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