Following the Government’s call to accelerate the Covid-19 booster vaccination programme, Devon’s GP practices have, at very short notice, reallocated much of their workforce to delivering Covid-19 vaccines over the next two weeks.
This means that GP practices will focus on urgent clinical need and vaccines, and some non-urgent appointments may be postponed until the New Year.
The Prime Minister, together with the NHS, has launched an urgent national appeal calling for people to get jabbed. It comes as the UK Chief Medical Officers have increased the UK Covid Alert Level from Level 3 to Level 4 due to a rapid increase in cases of the Omicron variant.
Recent data suggests that vaccine efficacy against symptomatic infection is substantially reduced against Omicron with just two doses, but a third dose boosts protection back up to over 70%.
Daily vaccinations across Devon will be doubling in the run up to Christmas with the ask of increasing the average number of weekly vaccinations given from 55,000 to 112,000 – this is a huge task at short notice and people in Devon are being thanked for their patience while arrangements to increase capacity are made.
NHS Devon’s clinical chair Dr Paul Johnson said: “Our vaccination teams are rising to the challenge, working flat out to deliver life-saving vaccines and ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed this winter with an influx of Omicron cases.
“We know this is a huge ask at short notice to double our weekly vaccinations and we thank all those across Devon for their patience while arrangements to increase capacity are made.”
Patients in Devon should continue to contact their GP practice for urgent health advice, but are urged to consider calling in the new year if it can wait, or if they can get help from another service such as a pharmacy, to allow teams to prioritise delivery of the vaccination programme.
Dr Johnson added: “We are asking for people to be patient, as GPs implement these changes as soon as practicably possible.
“Cancer checks will continue to be prioritised. People who are concerned about symptoms which could be cancer should continue to contact their GP. This could include a new lump, blood in wee or poo, or a condition that isn’t getting any better.”
People will be seen in person if they need to be examined, but most conditions can be discussed by phone, or by video call with a clinician.
The HANDi paediatric app has been developed by paediatric consultants for parents and provides access to home care plans, as well as GP and hospital clinical guidelines, for the most common childhood health care conditions.
There is also a wealth of self-help health information on the NHS website – www.nhs.uk – including reliable guidance on managing common winter illnesses.
Most GP practices in Devon are open until Christmas Eve, and re-open again on Wednesday 29 December.
People in Devon are also being reminded to come prepared for a possible wait when they arrive at vaccination centres. They should bring warm clothes and refreshments, anything that helps while waiting.