Health Matters – April 2021

Five Issues in this month’s Podcast
• Virtual Consultations
• Covid-19 Numbers & Variants
• Covid Testing
• How safe is the AZ Vaccine?
• The Future for Vaccine Technology

1. Virtual Consultations – Covid has changed the way we see our Doctor or Nurse – from GP Consultations to Outpatient Services to the Virtual Hospital the change has been significant. But what will happen as Lockdown is relaxed and will we ever go back to face-to-face appointments?
• Triage
• Wearables
• Voice Assistants
Survey for Maltings in OCT and again in FEB – disagrees down from 32% to 19% but use of time increased from 6% to 14%. Survey of Herts Integrated Diabetes Service 100% agreed on both effectiveness and time. And for our Monthly Health Webinars for the Maltings Surgery, 95% said they’d be extremely happy to join another session!

There are two considerations
• Visual versus Telephone
• Doesn’t work for everything – e.g. diabetics needing treatment for foot ulcers (podiatry)

The Virtual Hospital is a real game changer! It is a way of people recovering from home! And given the size of the current backlog within the NHS the last thing the service needs right now is “bed blockers”!

2. Covid Numbers
Remember back in January we were saying that there were over 700 cases per 100,000 in St Albans? Well now it’s down to 22 but there has been a slight increase since the easing of Lockdown on APR 12 – they were down to 13. And the new variants (South African, Brazil, and now Indian) are a cause for concern too. In St Albans, Marshalswick is the area with the most cases (45) followed by Harpenden East (38).. The other interesting statistic – people in hospital with Covid – at the peak it was 530 – today there are just 4! For all the details go to

3. Testing in St Albans.
Two types of test available – PCR (if you have symptoms) and Lateral Flow (if you don’t)
• PCR – symptoms (high temperature, new persistent cough, or loss of taste/smell); there are also a number of other criteria – been in contact, referred by a Healthcare Professional. Self refer; and you’ll be given an appointment time. Locations – Westminster Lodge, Hatfield University site or Welwyn GC,
• Lateral Flow – available to everyone through HCC, collection from a PCR site, online home ordering service, or participating pharmacies.
This is quite a complex area to navigate but there are two resources that contain everything you need
HCC web site – just search for HCC Covid Testing or go to
Call 119! – really helpful and can deal with detailed queries.

4. Should you get the AZ Jab?
The announcement on April 7th was a clear “course change”; the risk of blood clots is extremely low, especially in those over 30. But the Government has followed the recommendations of the experts and stated that they will try as far as possible to provide either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to that younger group where the balance of risk is less clear cut. The piece that was very interesting in this announcement was the balance of risk chart that JVT showed in the announcement on the balance of risk and how it changes with age.

So if you’re due an upcoming vaccination and have a personal history of clotting, or a clotting disorders and pregnancy (which increases risk of clotting regardless of vaccination), so that they can discuss the options and risks with a Doctor.

For more information go to

5. What’s next for Vaccines?
The Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines are referred to as mRNA Vacccines – “messenger ribonucleic acid” – effectively create a template for the antibodies that it’s looking to create. The technique was first used for Ebola and was adapted for Covid – but what’s the potential for this technology?

• The first area that’s being looked at is for the flu vaccine – given that they have to develop a flu vaccine each year it would be much easier and more agile simply to change the template. The holy grail is a universal flu vaccine that won’t need to be changed each year.

• Next comes seasonal influenza and from that to Tuberculosis (TB)
• Malaria

• Cancer – Some types of tumours have antigens or proteins not found in normal cells. If we could train our immune systems to identify these tumour-associated antigens then our immune cells could kill the cancer. Many are generic but ultimately scientists could personalise the template to the individual tumours of more complex cases.

Want to know more – here’s the link that will give you far more detail

Alan Bellinger Written by:

Alan is a Trustee of Healthwatch Hertfordshire and very well engaged with all things related to Health & Social Care within the Community. After retirement from a successful career in the private sector (working in both training and Information Technology), Alan wanted to get involved in supporting local health issues and has an excellent understanding of what it takes to ensure a great patient experience, Alan has lived in St Albans for well over 65 years; he is a widower with two children and he especially enjoys the company of his five grandchildren – four of whom live in the local area.