Health Matters – May 2021

Three Issues this month’s Podcast
• Lockdown Easing & Indian Variants
• Covid Vaccinations & GP Appointments
• Your GP Records

1. Lockdown Easing & Indian Variants – On Monday there was a significant relaxation of restrictions:-
• Seeing Friends & Family
• Pubs & Restaurants
• Indoor Entertainment
• Holidays and the Green List!
• Sport & Leisure and
• No need for masks in Classrooms

Our Covid numbers in St Albans are still pretty good – 15 per 100,000 but that’s up from 9 a week ago but when we were talking last month, I reported that St Albans numbers were 20 – so they’re still down on the month!

Remember you can still get tested whenever you wish – the PCR test if you have symptoms and the Lateral Flow test if you don’t! Just go to
• HCC web site – just search for HCC Covid Testing
• Call 119! – really helpful and can deal with detailed queries.

But to put that in context we must start with the recent Indian Mutations, as they have become known; what the scientists are now referring to as a “VOC” – a variant of concern!
On May 1 the Kingsbrook area of Bedford was registering just 2 Covid cases – but a week later they had risen to 157 per 100,000 and the latest figure I’ve seen is 279 – that’s back to December levels!
And this same pattern, in some cases much worse than in Bedford is also happening in Glasgow and Moray, Blackburn, Leeds, Newcastle, Aylesbury and parts of south London.

So what do we know about this new variant?

  • The variant causes a change in the spike protein that attaches to our human cells – and that makes It is very infectious;
  • The spread is no longer travel related which means it is spreading within the community;
  • Our current understanding is that the three UK vaccines should protect us from infection;
  • The people most at risk are the elderly and people with underlying health conditions – especially if they’ve been hesitant about getting the vaccine; but
  • It’s spreading fastest among the 20s-35s

So what is the Government doing? Surge testing and speeding up the vaccination programme in the hotspots. Plus some major changes to the vaccination programme:-

  • Second doses for over 38s on July 1st; coming down to over 35s this week
  • Wait until you are contacted!

2. Will GP’s ever offer Booked Appointments Again? – last week NHS-E made it clear that GPs should go back to face-to-face appointments and that “total triage” (introduced for the Covid pandemic) should not be continued post pandemic! The decision for a “booked appointment should not simply be made on the basis of clinical need but also on patient preference. That’s going to be a challenge for GPs!

  • There’s a chronic shortage of GPs as priority for the last twelve months was the acute sector;
  • Demand for GP services has never been higher – the Maltings Surgery regularly gets 800-1,000 calls a day!
  • Functions normally performed by acute hospitals have been referred to GPs; and
  • GP Surgeries have been supporting the Vaccine Roll-out.

It’ll be a case of “watch this space”!

3. GP Records.

Remember back in 2013/14 the travesty that was Caredata – the downloading of everyone’s GP Records? Well it’s back! On July 1st your complete GP record will be uploaded to NHS-Digital’s centralised repository. And every day thereafter any changes will be uploaded. The Government doesn’t want anyone to know about it! So should you care?

  • First there’s a benefit to us as patients – if we’re ill anywhere in England the local Healthcare Professionals can access our record – that’s called our direct or primary use.
  • But then there’s secondary use – for academics to do research and analysis that will indirectly benefit everyone – that’s secondary use.
  • And finally there’s tertiary use – where the Government sells the data to private healthcare companies.

Next there’s the issue of how safe is the data after it’s been uploaded or distributed for secondary or tertiary use? There’s no question that NHS Digital is safer today than it was in 2014; but there’s still a high probability of leakage. And if it does leak it becomes dangerous as NHS Digital has simply pseudonomysed and not anonymised the data. That means that although the data is essentially anonymous when it is distributed your personal details can be re-constructed.

You can opt out – the form you need isat the end of this article! You only have until June 23rd to exercise your opt-out!

And finally – here’s the link for the latest update on West Herts Hospital Trust

Your Care, Your Views: next steps

West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust has launched the second phase of its engagement as it progresses plans for its three hospitals ahead of significant funding for new and refurbished buildings.

A new information document has been published and the trust is holding public meetings for patients, carers and local people to hear more about the survey results and proposed service moves. Further information is included in the press release. All meetings take place online and include time for the public to ask questions. Meeting dates are as follows:

  • Wednesday 19 May 9am
  • Monday 24 May 1pm
  • Wednesday 26 May 4pm

Meeting links are published on the trust’s website. The trust are also offering to present to local community groups – please contact the redevelopment team via email

Alan Bellinger

May 19 2021


To opt out of the transfer of your GP Records for anything beyond your direct care copy and paste this Opt Out Letter into MS Word (or equivalent) and post/email to your Surgery before June 23rd

Register your Type 1 Opt-out preference

The data held in your GP medical records is shared with other healthcare professionals for the purposes of your individual care. It is also shared with other organisations to support health and care planning and research.

If you do not want your personally identifiable patient data to be shared outside of your GP practice for purposes except your own care, you can register an opt-out with your GP practice. This is known as a Type 1 Opt-out. 

Type 1 Opt-outs may be discontinued in the future. If this happens then they may be turned into a National Data Opt-out. Your GP practice will tell you if this is going to happen and if you need to do anything. More information about the National Data Opt-out is here:

You can use this form to:

  • register a Type 1 Opt-out, for yourself or for a dependent (if you are the parent or legal guardian of the patient) (to Opt-out)
  • withdraw an existing Type 1 Opt-out, for yourself or a dependent (if you are the parent or legal guardian of the patient) if you have changed your preference (Opt-in)

This decision will not affect individual care and you can change your choice at any time, using this form. This form, once completed, should be sent to your GP practice by email or post.

Details of the patient

Phone number 
Date of birth 
NHS Number (if known)          

Details of parent or legal guardian

If you are filling in this form on behalf of a dependent e.g. a child, the GP practice will first check that you have the authority to do so.  Please complete the details below:

Relationship to patient 

Your decision


I do not allow my identifiable patient data to be shared outside of the GP practice for purposes except my own care.


I do not allow the patient above’s identifiable patient data to be shared outside of the GP practice for purposes except their own care.

Withdraw Opt-out (Opt-in)

I do allow my identifiable patient data to be shared outside of the GP practice for purposes beyond my own care.


I do allow the patient above’s identifiable patient data to be shared outside of the GP practice for purposes beyond their own care.

Your declaration

I confirm that:

  • the information I have given in this form is correct
  • I am the parent or legal guardian of the dependent person I am making a choice for set out above (if appliable)


Date signed

When complete, please post or send by email to your GP practice


For GP Practice Use Only

Date received 
Date applied 
Tick to select the codes appliedOpt – Out – Dissent code: 9Nu0 (827241000000103 |Dissent from secondary use of general practitioner patient identifiable data (finding)|) 
 Opt – In – Dissent withdrawal code: 9Nu1 (827261000000102 |Dissent withdrawn for secondary use of general practitioner patient identifiable data (finding)|)] 

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.