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 group you 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: www.nextlinkhousing.co.uk