Health Matters – August 2021

Three Issues in this month’s Health Matters

  • Covid Update
  • Test & Trace
  • What’s happening in Primary Care?

1. Covid Update – Remember how we always said that St Albans was below the Hertfordshire average – but that changed last month? Well it’s still well above. Whilst the Hertfordshire average peaked on July 17 at 535 cases per 100,000 St Albans peaked two days later at 607 cases. On July 31 we had dropped to 217 but now we’re at 310 whilst the Herts average is 287.

In terms of Hospital numbers, at the last count there were 34 in Watford and 23 in the Lister.

It’s clear, though, that the “population immunity strategy” (aka “herd immunity”) is working – at least so far; it may be a different story when the schools go back and this years University Intake experience their new life.

Vaccine Situation – All 16-18 year olds are encouraged to get their vaccine NOW; the sooner you get it done the more protection you’ll have when you return to school or college. Go to the one in the Market Place as they have the Pfizer Vaccine; the iMed Pharmacy by the Station has both AZ and Moderna but 16-18s need the Pfizer jab.  Check the web site for details –

A single dose will provide you with 80% protection against hospitalisation and protection could be even higher as younger people generally respond faster to vaccines. You still need to be vaccinated even if you’ve already had COVID!

2. Test & Trace – it all changed this week! Let’s be clear on the new rules on what to do if you’re pinged:

* If you have had both jabs with at least 14 days since your second jab; OR you’re under 18 the assumption is that you’re OK until it’s proven otherwise!

* you do need to get a PCR Test done “as soon as possible” but you do not need to self-isolate until the result comes back, and only then if it’s positive.

* if you have not been double jabbed the old rules still apply.

If you are one of the people (like me!) who deleted the app, I’d recommend downloading it again – it’s a really useful check!

3. Primary Care – if you’ve contacted your Surgery in the last few months you’ve probably experienced

  • Long waits in the queue before you can get through;
  • Being told “All appointments are fully booked today – contact 111″
  • A “triage” before you are seen; and
  • A frustrating experience. So what is going on? Well there are a number of factors:-
    • Patient calls to Surgeries are currently between 150-200% of normal levels; this is typically a consequence of both the backlog in secondary care as well as the after effects of Covid.
    • There is a severe shortage of Doctors and Nurses at the moment – generally because of the priority being given to Secondary Care.
    • The effects of the “Pingdemic” on Surgery staff; and
    • The fact that, until the end of July, surgery staff were being seconded to Batchwood Hall.

And if the situation in Surgeries is challenging then the situation with Dentists is far worse; I heard of a situation last week where someone needed urgent dental treatment. They couldn’t get an appointment so were referred to 111. They were triaged and determined to be urgent; and were referred to three dentists who should be able to help them. But none of them could. So they were sent back to 111, were triaged again and referred to their Surgery; but the GPs couldn’t see them as their Indemnity Insurance doesn’t cover them. Finally they were sent to A&E where they were seen but what a run-around and what a waste of resources!

The downside of all this is that patients are getting much more aggressive and abusive in their dealings with Healthcare Professionals – and Reception staff in particular. This is entirely understandable given all the frustration but, at the end of the day, it doesn’t help and we all need to tone it down a bit and have a bit more compassion for staff who are really stretched in Primary Care!

Alan Bellinger
18th August 2021

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.