The NHS in Devon is offering advice to people aged over 70 on how to contact the NHS about getting a coronavirus vaccine.
Yesterday (8 February), the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, encouraged anyone over 70 who has not yet been vaccinated to get in touch with the NHS about booking an appointment.
In Devon, there are two main ways for people aged over 70 to contact the NHS to book a vaccination:
Local GP services – GP practices are working together to offer the vaccine to their patients.
Across Devon, 20 GP-led centres are in operation, serving all of the county’s GP practices.
Patients may be called to a different practice than their usual surgery, or to a venue set up specially to deliver vaccines.
Practices are at different stages in vaccinating the priority groups they serve for a number of reasons, including: they started vaccinating at different times, some have a higher proportion of older people on their lists than others, and capacity varies between sites due to vaccine supply, the size of the site and the number of staff available.
If you are in one of the top four priority groups*, as determined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and haven’t yet been contacted to arrange a vaccination, you can contact your practice or wait for them to contact you.
GP-led vaccination sites book appointments depending on how much vaccine they are sent from the national supply chain. Once these appointments are full, practices wait until they are notified of their next delivery before booking appointments.
As practices have efficient processes for contacting patients to fill up their appointments and avoid wastage, they may not always have empty slots when patients call them. Some practices are posting helpful updates on social media or on their websites to let their patients know whether slots are available or not, so people can avoid unnecessary calls.
Use the national booking service
The simplest way of using the service is online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination, but if you can’t book online, call 119 (free, 7am-11pm, seven days a week).
The system allows people to choose a time slot and location that suits them. It offers appointments at large vaccination centres or the selected community pharmacies that are offering the jab:
Westpoint Exeter – large vaccination centre
Home Park, Plymouth – large vaccination centre
Plymouth Cricket Ground, Devonport, run by Devonport Pharmacy
Lewis Pharmacy, Exeter Road, Exmouth
Westward Ho! Baptist Church, run by Arnolds Pharmacy, Westward Ho!
For some people, attending the large vaccination sites at Taunton Racecourse in Somerset and the Royal Cornwall Showground, Wadebridge, may be more convenient, and slots can be booked at these locations via the national booking service.
Important information relating to this service:
You do not need to have received a letter or know your NHS number to use the national booking service.
You can check the timing or location of an appointment made through the national booking system or cancel an appointment, under ‘manage my booking’ section of the website. To help avoid wastage, it is really important to cancel an appointment if you get vaccinated somewhere else.
If you receive a letter from the national booking service, it does not mean you have been taken off their GP list.
You must book an appointment, do not turn up without one.
Do not go more than 15 minutes early for an appointment – going too early creates unnecessary queues.
Dr Paul Johnson, Clinical Chair of NHS Devon CCG, said: “We are on track to meet our goal of offering everyone in the top four priority groups a jab. We would encourage everyone aged over 70 to book an appointment for a vaccination – the vaccine is safe, simple, and will offer you and those around you crucial protection against this virus.”
GP teams and the National Booking Service continue to call people who are entitled to a vaccine if they have not yet booked a jab. The national booking system, local GP practice or hospital hub may call from a withheld number.
Practices are also visiting people in priority groups 1-4 who cannot leave their home, to deliver the vaccination.
As the practices complete the first four groups, they will start to progress with the next ones, and people in these groups will be contacted when that time comes.
In a limited number of cases, GPs are holding day clinics at additional practice sites to help make access to vaccination services easier for people living in rural or isolated areas.
When attending any vaccination appointment, wear warm clothes when the weather is cold.
GP teams have been asked to contact their clinically extremely vulnerable patients, who have been asked to shield, to ensure they have been offered the vaccine.
Anyone who received a letter in 2021 asking them to shield, should also receive an invitation from their local family doctor as well as an invitation from the national booking service inviting them for a jab.
People in priority groups who are given a vaccination appointment by both their local GP team and the National Booking Service should cancel the one they do not want so the slot can be used by someone else.
* Health and social care workers, who are also among the top four priority groups for vaccination, should speak to their employer about arranging their jab.