This Sunday marks the end of British Summer Time. This summer, following the success of the vaccine programme in the previous 6 months marked a significant return towards pre-Covid normality. It has been a great relief to move on from zoom meetings back towards many events from village fetes, to visiting schools to the recent Civic Service that had been put on hold last year.
For those who are vaccinated the link between infection, hospitalisation and worse has been very substantially weakened. This has restrained the increase in hospitalisations even as we have seen an increase in cases as we entered autumn and schools returned.
Increased infection levels as we enter the winter months and spend more time together indoors remains a risk but really can be mitigated by a combination of sensible precautions and the ongoing roll-out of the vaccination programme. These continue to progress both with under 18s and among those eligible a booster jab 6 months after their second vaccination.
“Plan B” is on hand to be adopted if required. However no one wants to return to greater restrictions unless it really is necessary. I sincerely hope that it will not be. There has been a significant increase in booster doses and case numbers currently seem to be stabilising, both, for now, good signs.
While we learn to live with Covid we must not overlook the fact that flu remains a real risk to the vulnerable, as it always has been (especially as immunity may have been reduced by last winter’s lock-down). For those eligible a flu vaccine is more important than ever. It was great at Christs Hospital to see hundreds of local residents delighted to receive Covid boosters and flu jabs at the same time – and being rightly reassured that they were better protected.
Even before the Budget is announced we know that £12bn of extra support was announced in September for the NHS to tackle Covid-led increases to waiting lists. A further £6bn is being invested in infrastructure such as diagnostic tests and digital technology to help ensure doctors can treat patients as effectively and swiftly as possible.
I appreciate that the huge increase in demand for GP appointments following the end of lock-down has been a source of worry and in some cases frustration. However GPs locally are continuing to deliver and see patients, including face to face. If we can ensure, through the vaccination programmes, that less demand is placed on hospitals and support the best utilisation of these services through targeted investment this will help our doctors at the “front end” look after us, even as we train more GPs to join them.