Health services during coronavirus

Health services in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have made changes to the way they work to support hospital services and provide a safe working environment for staff and patients.

Health organisations across Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire are continuing to provide services for patients in need of care and support. However, due to coronavirus, the way we provide health and care services has been adapted to ensure we are ready to respond to increased demand for patients needing care if they contract coronavirus.

This information has been put together to guide you through some of the changes to the way health services are being provided in the area during this pandemic.

GP services

Telephone and online triage

If you need to access GP appointments during this time please phone your practice in the first instance or - where available - use their online consultation process via the practice's website.

GP Practices are having to work differently during the outbreak and have moved to a system of telephone, video or online triage in the first instance to help mitigate the risk of patients infected with coronavirus attending practices. If you need to be seen by a GP and your condition cannot be managed remotely you will be advised.

This temporary system will ensure anyone who needs to see a GP can, while prioritising patients with the greatest need.

Avoiding face-to-face appointments where possible

Every effort is being made to provide support away from practices, with face-to-face appointments only being made when absolutely necessary. Consultations will be carried out by alternative methods, such a telephone calls, video or online consultations.

However, we recognise there may be cases when face-to-face appointments are needed. You may in some cases be required to travel to a different practice than your own, as practices work together to meet the needs of the local population.

Services may be temporarily paused

As the pandemic reaches its peak, some routine assessments and services normally provided through your GP may become unavailable, such as ear syringing, stop smoking clinics and appointments for mild self-limiting conditions.

Referrals into hospital

Referrals to hospital specialists for non-urgent conditions have been paused. You will receive advice about how to self-manage your condition in the meantime, but if your condition significantly worsens please contact your GP.

We are implementing processes to ensure referrals during this time are logged and followed up with you once the current situation has improved.

Urgent referrals are still operating as usual. However, these referrals will be triaged before being accepted. This restriction does not impact cancer referrals (often referred to as 'Two Week Waits') and HOT clinic referrals as these are being processed as usual. More details on 'Two Week Waits' during the coronavirus outbreak can be found on the link below.

Understanding Two Week Wait Urgent Referrals and COVID-19

Details and more information about Two Week Wait Urgent Referrals during the Corornavirus outbreak.

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Community Services

Community services in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have changed the way they work to support hospital services and provide a safe working environment for staff and patients.

Community Children’s Health Partnership (CCHP) services

The majority of face-to-face work in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire has been suspended during this time. Contact with families will take place over the telephone wherever possible.

Safeguarding medical assessments will continue to be carried out but they will move to Eastgate House instead of Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Sirona care & health is running a dedicated telephone advice and information service for families currently receiving care from CCHP teams. Details of this can be found on the CCHP website.

Diabetes services

The Sirona care & Health website has details of services for people with diabetes, including how to contact the diabetes community services for advice and guidance. The site also contains resources with advice and guidance for dealing with diabetes during the coronavirus outbreak.

Diabetes UK are also urging people not to let coronavirus fears stop them from seeking medical help if they're worried they, or their child, is showing the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Read their news story to find out more.

Latest information

The Sirona care & health service changes web-page will be regularly updated with any service changes taking place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mental health services

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) provides a range of mental health services across the area. Visit the Avon and Wiltshire Health Partnership (AWP) website for the latest updates on the impact of Covid-19 on AWP services.

AWP have also set up a 24hour, seven-day-a-week telephone response line to provide advice, guidance and support over the phone to patients, families and carers, as well as members of the public who may be worried about their own or someone else's mental health.

The telephone line - 0300 3031320 - provides round-the-clock support for adults and children.

There is also a directory of support lines with specialist providers available on the NHS website and Public Health England have provided guidance on looking after mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Psychological therapies

Psychological therapy services have moved to fully remote delivery. This means that all Vita Health Group mental health services will be delivered either:

  • By telephone
  • Through video conferencing
  • Through webinars

Referrals can be generated as normal through the Vita Health self-referral page on their website.

VitaMinds have also developed a series of COVID specific resources to support the mental health of those in the BNSSG area. View the resources.

Visit the Vita Health website for the latest information about psychological therapies services.

Hospital services

Patients with hospital appointments.

The clinical teams are reviewing all outpatient appointments planned for the next three months to see whether they need to go ahead at the planned time. If the appointment does need to go ahead the patient will be contacted and offered either a telephone or video appointment. Only in exceptional circumstances would the patient be required to be seen face-to-face. If patients do not hear from the hospital please be assured that they remain on the appointments list and will be contacted as soon as our services return to normal operating.

Visitors to hospitals

There are restrictions in place for visitors and people accompanying you to hospital. Currently, all hospitals across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are not allowing visitors. There are scenarios where visitors may be allowed, visit our hospitals' websites for more information.

  • Visit the North Bristol NHS Trust hospitals website for information about visitors to Southmead Hospital, Cossham Hospital and other services.
  • Visit the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust hospitals websites for information about the Bristol area and information about the Weston area.

Maternity Services

Pregnant woman are among the groups of people considered vulnerable during the pandemic, and have been advised to reduce social contact through social distancing measures.

To help protect pregnant woman the local healthcare system is following national guidance, and has made some changes to the way maternity services operate.

Changes to maternity services

Births have been suspended at Ashcombe Birth Centre due to Community midwifery staffing levels. Services have moved to the outpatients department within Weston General Hospital.

Pregnant women will be contacted about the changes to maternity services across the area, which include:

  • Suspension of the home birth service
  • Only one birthing partner is able to attend the birth with the mother
  • Pregnant women must attend all face-to-face scans and tests alone, with the exception of the 12-week scan
  • Additional infection control measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as minimising non-essential face-to-face contacts in the community

Further information

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has more information on pregnancy and Covid-19.

Dental services

Although dental practices are now temporarily closed for routine check-ups, if you need urgent dental treatment this is available.

If you have an urgent dental need, contact your dental practice in the first instance. They will assess your need and book you an urgent appointment in centres in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare.

All NHS dental surgeries should continue to be accessible via phone, even though they are closed to the public. However, if you do not have a dentist or cannot contact your dentist, you should contact NHS 111.

Anyone who does not think they are getting the treatment they need via the urgent dental system may get in touch with NHS England’s Customer Care Centre, so their case can be investigated. Please call 0300 311 22 33 or contact england.contactus@nhs.net

Volunteer support

NHS volunteers can now provide telephone support and help with collecting shopping or medicines and transport to and from medical appointments. You can submit a referral for someone that needs support or an NHS service that requires volunteers. Call 0808 196 3382 or find more details and a referral form on the Good Sam App.

Vulnerable and shielded patients

Many patients will have been written to by NHS England and Improvement informing them that they are on the extremely vulnerable list because they have conditions that place them at high risk of severe illness from Covid-19. Those at high risk include people suffering from certain cancers, severe respiratory conditions, or are recipients of solid organ transplants. If you are on this list you should be self-isolating for 12 weeks. The gov.uk website has a full list of those who are considered extremely vulnerable and detailed advice about shielding and protecting people.

A&E, minor injuries and minor illnesses

A&E departments, minor injuries units and urgent treatment centres continue to be open across our area. However, we are urging residents to use the right services for their needs.

A&E departments remain open for both adults and children with serious or life threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness or severe persistent chest pain.

People with minor injuries such as sprains, cuts or burns are being asked to go to their local minor injury unit for help, while those with minor illnesses are asked to contact their GP.

More information on Minor Injuries Units in Yate and Clevedon and the Urgent Treatment Centre in Bristol is available on the Sirona care & health website.

If you’re not sure whether it’s an emergency, contact NHS 111 first to make sure you get the right care, first time.

Broadmead Walk-In Centre

The Walk-In Centre at Boots in Broadmead, Bristol has now closed until further notice. Staff from the centre have been redeployed to minor injuries units and other health care services to provide support during the coronavirus outbreak.

Pharmacy opening hours and support

Pharmacies are still open to dispense medicines and are continuing to provide advice on a wide-range of minor ailments. However, each pharmacy may have different arrangements in place to continue to allow access, such as a one-in one-out system.

Residents should not attend pharmacies in person if they are displaying symptoms of coronavirus, or if they live with anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms.

Coronavirus advice

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, including a new continuous cough and a high temperature, please do not attend a minor injury unit, urgent treatment centre or your GP practice. You should stay home and self-isolate for 7 days.

If you live with other people, they should isolate for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.

The most up-to-date public guidance can be found on the government coronavirus page.


Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading

Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

You should only leave your home for very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

Pharmacy opening hours

Some pharmacies in the area are operating different opening hours due to the coronavirus outbreak. Please check the opening hours of your local pharmacy before attending.

Other support

  • For urgent health care advice when you aren’t sure where to go, visit NHS 111 online
  • Every Mind Matters has expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing.
  • The Health at home webpage gives you an overview of NHS services that are available during the outbreak. Including how to order repeat prescriptions online and get them delivered.