Preparing for a surge in January of COVID-19 cases

The NHS in Devon is expecting to be very busy in January due to a predicted surge in Omicron cases, peaking in mid-January.

Even with very high vaccination uptake in our patients and staff, the spread of COVID-19 is already having a significant impact on NHS staff absences and this is likely to become worse. This will further impact on staffing and will cause more disruption to wider health and services.

Every additional person with COVID-19 impacts on the ability for the NHS to carry out other important work. For every inpatient in hospital with COVID-19, on average more than eight other operations are postponed.

To prepare for this surge in January and the impact on staffing, in Torridge our GP practices are:

  • Reducing non-urgent work, for example routine check-ups, routine monitoring, minor surgery, sick notes
  • Starting each consultation with a telephone call or online consultation first. We need to limit exposure for both patients and staff but anyone who needs to be seen face-to-face patient contact will be where it’s safe to do
  • Limiting the staff working in our buildings to reduce the risk of outbreaks, along with regular staff testing
  • Strictly applying infection control precautions such as masks, ventilation, social distancing, and hand sanitiser

By ensuring these measures are in place, we will keep general practice open and therefore support our local hospitals, ambulances and out of hours services.

If we find that despite these measures some individual GP practices cannot open for a short period of time, then neighbouring GP practices in our area will support each other to ensure we can still ensure patients have access to GPs when it’s urgent in our area.

Our practice will review the suitability of these arrangements each week as we learn more about the impact of Omicron on NHS services in Devon.

How can you help?

  • Please be patient and kind to our staff who are working under extreme pressure
  • Get your COVID-19 booster vaccination as soon as possible if you haven’t already. Many people in intensive care units in Devon are young and unvaccinated.
  • Continue to follow national guidance about wearing face coverings, social distancing and any other restrictions that are in place

The above message was drafted just before Christmas as we made plans to cope with upcoming demand.

Omicron is already having an impact in Hartland, with Dr Ruth Tapsell working from home this last week due to COVID identifed on Lateral Flow Test on Wed 29 Dec 2021, thankfully a mild illness, she had 3 COVID jabs. Dr Sam Tapsell is testing before work each day: 3 Jabs plus previous COVID seems to be keeping the infection away.

Even with high vaccine uptake, you have a high chance (perhaps more than half) of catching omicron if you come into contact, and so having all the vaccine protection onboard is very important for the next couple of months – please get boosted and keep Torridge at the very bottom of the national infection numbers!

COVID vaccine / booster pop up clinic in Hartland

If you have not been able to visit a walk-in vaccine in Barnstaple or through the national booking site, there will be a “pop up” vaccine service visiting Hartland on Tuesday 11th January 11am to 5pm at the Parish Hall.

  • Open to all people aged over 16
  • No appointment required

To check you are eligible, or for more information about the vaccine, see the NHS site here.

Free 12 week on-line lifestyle program

Would you like to lose weight and/or improve your diabetes without hunger or calorie counting?

Torridge Primary Care Network is offering a GP & social prescriber-led program for patients registered with Bideford Medical Centre, Wooda Surgery, Northam Surgery, Hartland Surgery, Torrington Health Centre & Castle Gardens Surgery

The program starts on Thursday 13th January 2022 and runs alternate weeks (6 sessions) 6.30-8.00pm on Zoom.

★ The real food, lower carb approach is an effective way to achieve weight loss and improve blood sugar.
★ People often feel much better and wish they had tried it sooner.
★ Often it enables people to reduce or stop some of their medication.
★ Additional benefits include improvements in sleep & sleep apnoea, energy levels, mood, joint pains, IBS, acid reflux etc.

To find out more, join us for an information session on Zoom on Tuesday 7th December at 6.30pm. All are welcome, whether for yourself or someone you live with or care for.

To register for the information session, please email our social prescriber/health coaches Verity, Justine or Nicola on or ring 07709 714668.

Poster: Torridge PCN Diabetes_Weight Loss Program

COVID Boosters – none at Hartland.

We are understandably getting lots of people asking to have their COVID booster vaccine at Hartland Surgery.

We are not delivering these locally, so you will need to book through the national booking system online or by calling 119. We dont have an alternative way to book the booster vaccine.

Why are we not doing more COVID Vaccines at Hartland?

Unlike flu vaccines, which each GP practice has been undertaking for many years, when a new COVID vaccine program was started in Dec 2020, the government and NHS England decided that due to the complexity of vaccine storage and supply, they would only deliver vaccine “at scale” to networks of practices.

To accomodate this GP practices in North Devon were together able to hire and staff the leisure centre in Barnstaple for the frozen Pfizer vaccine, and we also expected and planned that the refridgerated Oxford Vaccine could be collected from our Barnstaple hub and then delivered from our practices, like the flu vaccine.

But when the Oxford Vaccine was made available, it was diverted locally by NHS England to the pharmacy at Westward Ho! and away from GP practices, causing chaos and cancellations of many hundreds of vaccine appointments especially for the Bideford GP practices. We were only given smaller amounts of “left over” to catch up with people who hadn’t arranged vaccine through the national system, along with the Pfizer vaccine which we delivered from the hub.

This duplication and delay of delivery meant all our GP practices were frustrated in our efforts, with our patients wondering why we were always behind with delivering the vaccine, and why we only contacted them AFTER they had booked or travelled to vaccine hubs in Wadebridge or further.

Given that we were second choice for delivery of vaccines, our Torridge Network of GP pracfices “opted out” as the first doses of vaccine delivery moved below the aged 50 group, who were much more able to travel for vaccine, or wait a little longer for local delivery. We would instead focus on getting our normal GP services back on track, after all the complexity of the previous year, which I hope we have achieved.

When the booster program was announced, the Torridge network again decided not to take part, since the hospital was now running the leisure centre, and there was ongoing provision at Westward Ho! and Wadebridge.

Given the recent upscaling and urgency for the COVID booster program, we are also frustrated at the lack of vaccine capacity and we are still looking at any ways we could try and help, but up to now there has been no flexibility in what we could deliver and for which patients. Therefore we are sorry not to be able to help further.

Phone problem

We are currently having a problem with our phone connection over the last hour (2-3pm), which we are looking into. We hope to back up shortly.

Update, 4.51pm Vodafone who supply our broadband, advise a BT connection issue from 2.12pm to 8.12pm, meaning our phone lines will not be restored until after we close. Sorry if you have tried to get in touch. Our email and clinical systems are on a separate data link which is all working normally.

Update 2, Saturday. 16 Oct

We now understand the internet may be down until Wednesday. We have successfully rerouted our calls, so you should be able to call as using our usual practice number on Monday, 01237 441200, but things may sound a little different as we will be using our computers to make and receive calls and wont be able to pass calls around the building.

Update 3, Tue 19 Oct, 8.10pm

Internet connection working and calls routing normally, Thanks for being patient this last couple of days if you have taken longer to get through on the phone.

Mobile COVID testing unit in Hartland, Mon 11 Oct 0900-1230

The council has informed us they are visiting Hartland next week, with the following helpful information:

Did you know that one in three people with coronavirus do not have symptoms?

That’s why Devon County Council is encouraging people in Devon to take twice-weekly rapid lateral flow tests, helping identify those who may unknowingly have the virus and breaking the chain of transmission. Even those who have been vaccinated could catch and spread coronavirus, so regular testing for people without symptoms will pick up cases to stop it spreading in the community.

One of our mobile testing vans will be at the British Legion Car Park, Hartland, on Monday 11th at 0900 to 1230.

Even though test kits are readily available and it’s easy for people to do the tests themselves at home, we are finding a lot of people are still preferring to have assistance from us to take the test. Our mobile testing units and staff are ready and happy to help. No booking is required and we’ll get the results to you within half an hour, allowing you to get on with your day. Last week, our mobile sites helped people with 516 lateral flow tests. They also handed out 18,000 tests for people to do themselves at home.

You can find out more on our website:

Flu Clinic, Sat 25 Sep and Sun 26 Sep 2021

Its flu vaccine time again, the list of those eligible has increased to include all over 50s, as well as “at risk groups”, more info here. If you think you may be eligible, call the surgery on 01237 441200 and book your vaccine. We are due a big vaccine delivery on Monday 20 September, and will confirm when they arrive on this page. (CONFIRM VACCINES ALL ARRIVED!)

What about COVID boosters?

These are seperately being arranged by a national booking system and we expect them to be offered by age-groups once again. After receiving an invitation letter you should be able to book through the national website here when they have appointments available for Westward Ho! and Barnstaple.

Any more flu vaccine dates?

Yes, as well as Sat 25 Sep, Sun 26 Sep we will also be flu jabbing on Sat 30 Oct.

Quarterly Shutdown Afternoon Thursday 9 September 2021

We have a half-day shutdown afternoon, where we will be closed for staff training on Thursday 9 September 1pm-6pm. A number of pre-booked appointments will happen as normal on Thursday evening from 6-8pm and medications can be collected during this time.

During the afternoon URGENT requests can be made by calling 111.

Non-urgent queries should wait for the surgery to re-open on Friday 10 September from 8am, phone lines at 8.30am.

Many thanks

Dr Sam Tapsell

PS Walk in vaccination clinic in Barnstaple dates, Pfizer Vaccine

08.30 to 5pm on 5, 7, 12 and 14 of September at leisure centre – still a chance to GRAB A JAB!, especially if you are aged 16-17.


Second Dose Dates (AMENDED)

We are planning our vaccine dates for second doses of Oxford Vaccine at Hartland Surgery.

We amended dates on Tue 18 May 2021, after change of guidance and vaccine supply to enable 8 weeks interval between doses.

First Dose at HartlandSecond Dose at Hartland
Wed 3rd Feb
Thu 12 Feb
Wed 28 Apr
Wed 17 FebFri 7 May
Thu 25 Feb
Fri 5 Mar
Wed 10 Mar
Fri 19 Mar *
Fri 21 May
Wed 31 Mar *
Thu 1 Apr *
Wed 2 Jun

* second dose date brought forwards to around 8 weeks