Earlier this week, the Health Secretary outlined our winter COVID-19 preparation plans, which will give us the best possible chance to live with this pandemic whilst avoiding major restrictions.
In line with the recommendation of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) we will be rolling out booster jabs across the country from next week. This will take place in a similar order to before, starting with those most vulnerable and working through cohorts 1-9, which include all those aged 50 and over, frontline healthcare workers and those who are clinically vulnerable. If you are within these groups the NHS will contact you directly.
The Government also accepted the advice of the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers on vaccinating children aged 12 to 15 in England, who will now be offered a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As with all school vaccination programmes, parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by vaccination healthcare staff which is the system that has been in place since the 1980s.
The importance of this programme cannot be overstated, as nearly 99% of all COVID-19 deaths in the first half of this year were people who hadn’t received both doses of a vaccine. If you’re yet to be vaccinated, please drop into your local vaccine centre, in Chichester City the Westgate Leisure Centre is open to drop-ins every day.
Another issue which has been causing concern recently is that of accessing GP appointments in person. This is something I’ve been working on having received several letters from constituents. Currently, at a national level, the Government is speaking to the British Medical Association and the NHS to encourage GPs to return to a pre-pandemic operating model. Locally, meanwhile, I have written to several GP practices to encourage services to get back to somewhere near normal. I am also planning a visit to a local GP surgery in the coming weeks to see how they’re adapting to a new hybrid system, where patients are triaged by phone consultation before getting a face-to-face appointment.
Although these new systems are more common today, it is vital that people can access face to face appointments, which can be supported by new tech. In many instances, medical issues and illnesses are often only diagnosed in person. Therefore, any process must not act as a barrier to people – and everyone must always be able to get an appointment should they wish – this is especially important in safeguarding, intervention and identifying hidden conditions.
This Friday 17 September, I will be holding my next Pub Tour at The Sun Inn, Plaistow. All the details are available on my website: www.gilliankeegan.com – I hope to see some of you then.