It can be incredibly confusing for patients to know exactly when they are eligible for the jabs and where they can get them, with the nation still very much impacted by the Covid pandemic.
We’ve been speaking to the executive manager at Melton’s Latham House Medical Practice, Kate Hunter, to get the lowdown on how the various services can be accessed. This is what she told me this week:
NICK RENNIE: There seems to be confusion over when and where people can have their booster coronavirus jab. Can you explain when patients are eligible for the third dose, where they can book appointments for it and whether Latham House is involved in the roll-out?
KATE HUNTER: A coronavirus booster vaccine dose helps improve the protection we will have from our first two doses of the vaccine from getting seriously ill.
Booster vaccine doses are available on the NHS for people most at risk from Covid who have had a second dose of a vaccine at least six months ago. However, if patients have not received an invite but it’s been six months and one week -or 190 days - since their second dose, patients can try to book their appointment online without an invite.
The Melton Sports Village vaccination centre is organised by the East Leicestershire and Rutland CCG and the latest information regarding the vaccination centre’s opening times and planned clinics will be available by either calling 119 or on their website.
Although the current focus is on giving booster doses to eligible people, first and second doses are also still available at many vaccination centres across Leicestershire.
As a practice we are focused on the restoration of our operations and delivering the seasonal flu vaccinations and we are currently not involved in the Covid vaccination programme and do not have the latest information to share with our patients.
NR: Who is eligible for a flu jab and can they book appointments at Latham House to have one there? Can people have the flu jab and the Covid booster jab at the same time or is there a time period they should leave between each?
KH: The flu virus typically peaks during the winter months and the best way to help protect yourself and others from catching and spreading flu is to have the flu jab every year. Flu strains can change from year to year, which means last year’s jab may not protect you from this year’s strains. The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of that year’s flu season. Getting vaccinated is important each year but this year more than ever people are urged to have the vaccine in order to protect themselves, and the NHS, this winter.
Flu vaccinations are delivered in phased batches to GP practices and our clinics are organised in line with flu vaccination and staff availability.
At Latham House Medical Practice our aim is to deliver the flu vaccination to all eligible patients as quickly and safely as possible. To this end we continue to run flu clinics both during the week and at weekends to offer patients greater convenience.
As of October 31, we have vaccinated over 3,856 patients and received some lovely support from our patients who attended our clinics.
The winter flu vaccination is free on the NHS to anyone aged 50-plus, as well as carers, pregnant women and adults with health conditions that mean they are vulnerable to flu. Children from age two up to year 11 in school can also have the flu vaccine, as well children aged two to 17 who have long-term health conditions.
The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. If you’ve had Covid, it’s safe to have the flu vaccine. It will still be effective at helping to prevent flu and there does not need to be a gap between receiving your Covid and flu vaccination
NR: I understand the national shortage of blood tubes has eased. Does this mean that non-urgent blood tests can resume at LH? If so, is there a backlog and a delay as a result of the previous shortage of tubes?
KH: Thankfully, blood bottle supplies have stabilised and all blood testing at Latham House Medical Practice has resumed.
We are now in the process of contacting all patients to invite them to book their routine monitoring blood tests, and appointments are also again available via the Airmid or NHS apps.
NR: What kind of strain is it putting on staff and resources at Latham House, with staff having to deal with the various jabs while dealing with the normal patient workload?
KH: We have seen a significant increase in demand since lockdown eased and we are working hard to make sure our patients get the care they need. Our staff are working overtime and extra shifts to enable us to meet this demand and offer the flu vaccination as we recognise the need to offer people the vaccine as early on in the flu season as possible.
We are incredibly proud of our Latham House team who are all working above and beyond to ensure we support our community to the best of our ability.
NR: Is your practice increasing the number of face-to-face consultations with doctors in line with new government directives or do many patients still prefer to conduct online consultations?
KH: Patients who contact Latham House Medical Practice are now being offered a choice of face-to-face or telephone consultations for their routine GP appointments.
Telephone and online consultations options will continue to be offered to patients as they can offer greater convenience to some people.
Our patients have told us that, on the whole, they have had positive experiences with telephone consultations and appreciate that this option can often work better for them, especially on a working day or by fitting it in around child care.
We wish to continue to offer these options to patients who feel it helps them.
Immediate on-the-day appointments will currently remain as telephone triage in the first instance with patients being invited to attend the practice where there is a clinical need.
NR: Earlier this year Latham House said its resources were being stretched due to having significantly fewer doctors available due to unfilled vacancies and staff absences? Has this situation eased or is it still an issue?
KH: We are extremely grateful to our community for their patience and understanding whilst we navigated the short term staffing issues in the summer. Part of the concern was due to unplanned staff sickness or compassionate leave. There was also planned GP recruitment but with start dates that fell outside of the summer period.
We are delighted to announce that we have now welcomed four new salaried GPs to the Latham House team. Our new GPs include Dr Ben Wootton, Dr Graeme Pettifer, Dr Oxana Iwanskyj and Dr Tiago Ivo. Our practice website will be updated over the coming weeks to introduce our new GPs to our patient community.
NR: Is there still a problem over the number of people who fail to turn up for appointments at Latham House and don’t cancel them in advance? If so, what is the impact of this and what advice would you give to patients on the issue?
KH: Missed appointments or DNAs - did not attends - are a huge problem for the NHS. Failing to attend an appointment without cancelling the appointment with good notice is incredibly wasteful, costly and also prevents the appointment being offered to another patient.
In September, we experienced 608 DNAs, which is the equivalent of 162 wasted hours of clinical time. The NHS calculate that the average appointment is a cost of £30, so our loss in one month is over £18,000.
If anyone is unable to attend their appointment at Latham House, we would ask them to please telephone the surgery on the dedicated cancellation line, 01664 503027, which is available 24/7, or if you are signed up to our online services you can cancel these by this method. #
We would urge patients to save the cancellation phone number in their phones so that it is easy to access when the need arises.