Face masks still required at Hartland Surgery

Masks are still required at the moment in all healthcare settings including GP surgeries and hospitals.

COVID infection levels remain high and symptoms like nasal congestion, sore throat and headache are currently more common for omicron, as well as the cough, fever and loss of smell symptoms.

There are still some vulnerable patients in our community despite the excellent vaccine efforts, and we still need to ensure our practice is as safe as possible for patients and staff. I’m proud that all our staff have been fully vaccinated / boosted.

We are not sure how this will change in the future, but I hope that when warmer spring weather comes through, we can open the windows wider, and stop requiring the masks most of the time.

I expect for the next few years we will continue to ask patients and staff with any “viral symptoms” such as cough, fever, sore throat to wear a mask inside the building. This has been common practice in Asian countries for some time.

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.

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.

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: https://www.devon.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-in-devon/rapid-testing-devon

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
(Amended)
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

Vaccines open to over 45’s – book through national system

If you are aged 45 or above, you are now eligible for a vaccine, booked through the national booking website. You will be offered a choice of vaccine venues.

We will not be doing more “first doses” at Hartland Surgery. We will still be doing second doses up until the end of June for those who had the first dose at the surgery.

We still encourage everyone to get a vaccine, to get protected for themselves, and to prevent circulation of the virus in our community.

We currently have 1648 (59%) of our patients vaccinated (first dose) including 272 (10%) who are fully vaccinated (both doses).

Oxford Vaccine, Second doses and Blood Clots

We are now looking out for blood clots after the Oxford Vaccine (Astra-Zeneca), around 4 in every millions doses. There is more information in a government leaflet here

We are told these dont develop until after 4 days from the vaccine date (which is after the common 2-3 days of “flu-like” symptoms, which can include headache, temperature and feeling unwell).

There are no reports of clots after a second dose, so we have no concerns recommending the second vaccine dose, even where you felt unwell for 2-3 days afterwards, or are in the younger group of people.

What should I look out for after vaccination?

Although serious side effects are very rare, if you experience any of the following from around 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination you should
seek medical advice urgently.

  • a new, severe headache which is not helped by usual painkillers or is getting worse
  • a headache which seems worse when lying down or bending over or
  • an unusual headache that may be accompanied by:
    • blurred vision, nausea and vomiting
    • diffculty with your speech
    • weakness, drowsiness or seizures
    • new, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
    • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain

Mop Up Clinic This Wednesday (groups 1-9)

We have vaccine available, and a few of our patients are eligible but still not had their first dose. Overal 1534 (56%) of our patients have had a first dose of vaccine so far. This is actually 71% of those eligible, since a vaccine is currently recommended for those aged over 18.

We are therefore getting in touch with those not yet done to offer a catch up vaccine for Wednesday, please get in touch if you are waiting from groups 1-9 (Aged over 50, vulnerable, carers).

For those under 50, there is expected to be a delay through April while vaccine priority is on the second doses within 12 weeks to get maximum protection for those most at risk.

Regarding numbers, we have the following cohort sizes still needing vaccine, a total of 635

  • Aged 40-49 – 205
  • Age 30-39 – 190
  • Age 18-29 – 240

Should I get the COVID Vaccine?

As we move to younger groups of patients, we are getting more questions regarding whether it would be a good idea to be vaccinated?

YES! 100% yes! Every member of our staff has been vaccinated.

  • COVID is very contagious – you will almost all get exposed in the next year or two.
  • Fatigue and breathlessness is common after COVID, even in previously fit and active people, its not just the risk of death.
  • There is very good safety data on the vaccines to show that any risks are much lower compared with the placebo group. “Real world” data in the UK has shown a dramatic fall in the overall death rate starting a few weeks after the vaccine.
  • After a vaccine you are unlikely to be unwell from COVID, almost certain to not need hospital treatment for COVID, much lower risk of spreading infection.
  • You will be protecting our community, making our area a safer place to live for everyone. Especially for those who dont have a strong immune system.

What about pregnant women or children? We are waiting to confirm that vaccination is safe, but we will vaccinate our children if this is recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). They are the best in their field, whose expert advice we trust.