Health leaders pledge more vaccination appointments, as GPs say care will be available for those most in need
As all adults over the age of 18 become eligible for a Covid-19 booster vaccine, more vaccination appointments are being made available across Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire.
Extended opening hours at existing vaccination sites, along with the reopening of some vaccine venues, such as the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, will help create additional appointment slots for people wishing to receive a booster dose before the end of the year.
On Sunday 12 December, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people to stop the spread of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 by coming forward for a booster vaccination.
In response, teams at sites across the region, including the Steam Museum in Swindon, Bath Racecourse and Salisbury City Hall, are pulling out all the stops to help increase the daily booster vaccination total from 6,000 to approximately 18,000.
Gill May, Director of Nursing and Quality, said: “This is a huge ask, and the next three weeks will see our teams, who have already been working flat-out on the vaccination programme for more than a year, carry out a record number of shifts during the Christmas and New Year period.
“Existing vaccination sites will be opening for longer and colleagues who had previously left the vaccination programme have answered the call to return to the frontline.
“No stone will be left unturned in our drive to get vaccines into arms, but we can only do this with support from our public, and we ask that local people book appointments in advance, be patient when arriving at a vaccination venue and treat our staff with kindness and respect.”
Staff at the region’s GP practices will also be stepping up to support the vaccination programme over the coming weeks, meaning some routine and non-urgent work will be paused.
However, clinicians have stressed that those in need of urgent care, such as people with cancer-like symptoms, will still be seen.
Dr Edward Rendell, Salisbury GP and Locality Clinical Chair for Wiltshire, said: “The threat posed by this new strain of Covid-19 is very real, which is why primary care staff are returning to the vaccination drive.
“However, this does not mean that practices will now be closing, and I would like to reassure people that help will still be available for those who need it most.
“So, while we do what we can to support the wellbeing of the population, please do not put off coming forward for things such as new lumps, unexpected bleeding, sudden weight loss or anything else that needs urgent attention.
“This is a challenging time for the whole NHS, with staff working flat out to provide care where it is needed most, so please continue to be kind to our teams this Christmas.”
People in need of quick healthcare for minor health conditions are advised to visit a pharmacy or check their symptoms on the NHS 111 website.
Any person coming forward for a booster vaccination are advised to arrange their appointment online at www.nhs.uk or over the phone by calling 119.
While some sites may be able to accommodate a limited number of walk-in vaccinations each day, people who arrive without a booked appointment may have to wait to be seen.
For more information on the local rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, visit www.bswicb.nhs.uk.