Health Matters – September 2023

Health Matters – September 2023

Four subjects this month –

  • Flu Jabs
  • Covid Jabs
  • Questions for the Board
  • Key Issues in St Albans
  1. Flu Jabs – it’s that time of year again! If you remember back to last year the flu season was pretty bad (if you didn’t get it you were either vaccinated or lucky!). The main reason was that, during Covid, flu was less prevalent than usual so we had fewer antibodies in our bloodstream. So this year let’s all be sure to get the jab – if you’re eligible! And there’s a big change this year; those between 50 and 65, who have been offered the jab in the past, aren’t in the list this year.

Here’s the eligibility list:

  • People aged 65 years and over
  • People aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
  • Those in long-stay residential care homes
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • Close contacts of people with low immunity
  • Carers in receipt of carer’s allowance,
  • Pregnant women
  • Children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
  • School children (from Reception to Year 6 Year 11)

As usual you have two options – your Surgery or a Chemist. For Surgeries – they will contact you and give you the appointment options; for a Pharmacy, go to

2. Covid Jabs – I am getting really concerned about the Covid Jabs this Autumn; Vaccine Hesitancy is definitely on the rise in St Albans. So here’s my message ………. Get this jab; if you’ve got away with it so far you’ve been lucky and don’t bank on that luck this year. And if you have had Covid in the past, remember those antibodies that you built up don’t last long!

Here’s the eligibility list:

  • People aged 65 years and over
  • People aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
  • Care home residents
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • Those aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals
  • Carers

Again, your Surgery will contact you and give you a link to their appointments system or you can go to a Pharmacy – to find one near you go to the online booking service at or call 119.

3. Questions for the Board – let’s start with a quick update about how our local Health Services are commissioned. All of our local Surgeries, Pharmacists and Hospitals come under the Herts & West Essex Integrated Care Board – “the ICB”. In the last six weeks, the ICB has established a “Patients Forum” and tasked the Forum to ensure that the Board hears the patient voice. And, guess what, I am the chair of that Forum!!! There are two ways we get the patient voice to the Board – questions and a Key Issues Report. The questions come up at the Board Meeting on Friday and here’s what I shall be asking the Board and seeking answers:

3.1.The waiting list

“We hear constant stories of patients’ elective surgery being re-scheduled at the last minute and these experiences are having a significant social and mental health impact as well the consequences for their own health and wellbeing. Is everything possible being done to ensure that the most in need are supported in “waiting well” and can we be assured that decisions are being made to prioritise those most in need?”

3.2. Access to GP Surgeries

“Is the ICB fully on track to deliver ‘Modern General Practice Access’ and tackle the ‘8 am rush’ in line with the ‘NHS Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care’, and how will success be measured?”

This is how the Access Requirements have been defined:

  • see all patients by providing inclusive, straightforward online and telephone access
  • prioritise and allocate need safely and equitably (including continuity of care)
  • make best use of other primary care services and the multi-professional team
  • understand all patient needs through structured information gathering
  • improve the efficiency of processes and reduce duplication
  • understand all patient needs through structured information gathering.

3.3. Technology Adoption and Digital Exclusion

“The Patient Engagement Forum (“PEF”) fully supports the move to maximise the use of digital technology and AI, and its adoption; but the PEF recognises that not everyone is “tech savvy” and requests assurance that everything is being done to minimise the probability of digital exclusion.”

3.4. probability of the Letby Case happening in our area

“Patients have been horrified by the Letby case and families of pregnant mothers in HWE are asking the question: what is the probability of that happening in our area?”

Do you agree with these questions? What would you like me to ask about at the next meeting on 28th November

4. Key Issues in St Albans

These are the key points we raised in our Paper to the Board:-

4.1 The Impact of Strikes on Patient Cancellations and Staff Morale

4,2 Wait Lists

4,3 Letby

4,4 Patient Choice

4.5 GP Access

4.6 Phlebotomy

4.7 Dentistry

4.8 Autism/ADHD

4.9 Ambulance and Patient Transport Waiting times

And we will be producing our next Key Issues Report for the NOV Board – what would you like to see you bring to the table? Do please let me know by emailing

Alan Bellinger

20th September 2023

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.

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