25 February 2021 Letter from Buckinghamshire Unitary Leader:
Most of you will have read about or heard the Prime Minister’s announcement this week on the Government’s ‘roadmap’ to easing the COVID-19 restrictions in the coming months.
I’m sure that for you, like me, it’s a huge relief to see a way out of this situation and for us to finally be able to consider a return to more normal life later this year. Of course, as life has resoundingly taught us in the last 12 months, we cannot be 100% sure of anything so these plans will be guided by the data as we move forward.
I’m pleased to be able to let you know that we’ve also been able to stand down the ‘Major Incident’ that we declared back in December when our local health services were under severe strain. This week’s decision reflects that we are no longer in a crisis situation although I must stress that we still have COVID-19 patients in our local hospitals. Also please do bear in mind that national infection rates are still far higher than when we began the last major unlocking process last year, and overall the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 nationally has very recently been around the same as at the height of the first wave last April.
For some the Government’s ‘roadmap’ is too slow and cautious, for some too fast. I believe that on balance they have got it about right with cautious opening up, checked at each stage with the data. I for one am looking forward to seeing friends and relatives again this summer and doing some ‘real shopping’.
Nevertheless, while we can look to the future with real hope, we all need to stick at it a bit longer to get the infection rates down further still. We’ve done a brilliant job of this here in Buckinghamshire since Christmas so let’s keep going just that little bit longer.
Extensive surveillance of COVID-19 has identified a case in the Wooburn Green area of the variant first discovered in South Africa. The person has self-isolated and is following all of the guidance.
It means that, working with NHS Test and Trace, Buckinghamshire Council is encouraging every person over the age of 16 living or working in the Wooburn Green area and parts of Flackwell Heath to take a PCR COVID-19 test regardless of whether they have symptoms. If you live in or close to the Wooburn Green/Flackwell Heath HP10 postcode area please use the online postcode checker to see if you live in the ‘surge testing’ area – it takes in some, but not all HP10 postcodes.
Children aged five and over can also be tested if their parents/carers want this. We will be delivering home test kits to all households in Wooburn Green and parts of Flackwell Heath from today (Thursday 25 February) until Tuesday 2 March. We will also have Mobile Testing Units in the area – you can also book a test online at www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/surgetesting. The mobile unit is for people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you do have symptoms then please isolate your household and take one of the home testing kits or book a test through the national testing system.
While I appreciate that this news may be worrying, please let me reassure you that there’s currently no evidence to suggest that this variant is more serious than others or that our current precautions and treatments are not as effective against it. The extra testing, combined with all the existing measures in place, will help to suppress and control the spread of the virus and give us a better understanding of the new variant.
We are continuing to digest the information released by the government which details the step by step approach to cautiously easing the lockdown. The Prime Minister has explained that the dates given are the earliest by which the measures will start, and that a gap is being left between each ‘step’ so that the impact of each phase can be fully assessed.
The steps will only progress if the government’s four tests are being met, namely that; i) the vaccination programme is continuing successfully, ii) there is evidence to show the vaccine programme is reducing hospitalisations and deaths, iii) the infection rates are such that there’s not a risk of a surge in demand on NHS services, iv) that no new variants cause enough concern to threaten this approach.
Step 1 March 8:
Step 2 No earlier than 12 April and subject to four tests still being met:
Step 3 No earlier than 17 May and subject to four tests still being met:
Step 4 No earlier than 21 June and subject to four tests still being met:
These lists capture some of the main points in each step but if you want the full detail including the rationale for these measures please read the information in full on the Government’s website. For now, everyone needs to continue to socially distance from anyone they don’t live with. This advice will be reviewed and updated when it’s possible to do so.
We are working hard with all our schools to ensure the safe return of all Buckinghamshire students to the classroom from 8 March, the first major step in this ‘unlocking’ process. Schools will communicate directly with parents and carers about the processes for each individual site and of course, all schools will continue to operate with COVID-safe measures in place. We await the full details of how regular testing for school students will work which is how we will help to keep students and teachers safe and to minimise outbreaks.
The vaccine roll out continues at pace here in Bucks and I remain extremely grateful to everyone involved in this magnificent effort. NHS staff and volunteers continue to work down the priority list here and 145,000 people in Buckinghamshire have now had a vaccination.
Please be aware that if you’re in one of the top five priority groups you can now book your vaccine online yourself – you do not have to wait to be contacted. This means anyone in the following groups can book their vaccine online or call 119 to get an appointment:
You can read more about the vaccination programme in Buckinghamshire on our website.
Rapid testing sites
If you have to leave your home to work or volunteer then please visit one of our rapid testing sites to get a COVID-19 test. We have four sites in the county, in Amersham, Aylesbury, Buckingham and Wycombe. You can find out more information including opening times on our website. You can book your test online at this link too or simply walk in at a time that suits you. I do urge you to get tested if you are having to leave home for these reasons as it will help us to keep families and communities safe and to drive down infection.
As I reminded you last time, these rapid tests are not for people who do have symptoms of COVID-19. If you have even very mild symptoms of COVID-19 then please book a test via the national system online or by calling 119. It’s essential that you and everyone you live with isolates immediately. If you are on a low income and can’t work from home while you’re isolating you might qualify for a self-isolation payment of £500.
Please continue to stay safe and look after yourselves and each other,
Leader of Buckinghamshire Council
12 Jan 2021 More vaccination sites for Bucks
More COVID-19 vaccination centres are coming to Buckinghamshire this week, with GP-led sites opening in High Wycombe Town Centre and Aylesbury this week, in addition to the 5 sites which are already up and running to deliver vaccines to patients aged 80 and over.
Another GP-led site will follow soon in Buckingham, and a further site is being planned for the south of the county, as the vaccination programme continues to gather pace across Buckinghamshire.
We expect that by the end of this month all patients over the age of 80 should receive an invitation for a vaccination appointment.
A number of pharmacy vaccination sites will also be launched in Buckinghamshire; sites in Marlow and Wycombe are due to open and start vaccinating people during next week. Additional sites in other areas of the county are due to open very soon too.
And two more mass vaccination centres are also in the process of being set up – more details will follow on these in due course.
So far more than 12,000 vaccinations have been given to patients across Buckinghamshire, including nearly 2,000 delivered to health and social care staff at a ‘Hospital Hub’ managed by Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
GP-led vaccination sites for patients are already up and running in:
- Chalfont St Peter
- Princes Risborough
- High Wycombe
Several national mass vaccination sites are also being set up by the NHS which are outside of the county. Some Buckinghamshire residents aged 80 and over, who live 30-45 minutes from the nearest of these sites, may have received a letter on these from the NHS in recent days. This letter explains how they can book a slot through the national system if they do not wish to use the local system (the GP-led sites described above).
Currently, the mass vaccination sites closest to Buckinghamshire are:
- Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East)
- Excel Centre in London (London)
- Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England)
If residents have received a letter but do not want to attend one of these Mass Vaccination sites, it will not affect their ability to get an appointment at a local site through your GP.
As well as people aged 80 and over, care home residents and staff, along with health and social care workers are being prioritised in this first phase of the national vaccination rollout. This is in line with the national Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) prioritisation programme.
The Government has announced that the top four priority groups in the JCVI list will be completed by mid-February.
Residents are being asked to please not contact their GP surgery to arrange an appointment. The NHS will contact patients when the time is right for their vaccination appointment to be arranged.
Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, said: “These are extremely difficult times for all of us, but it is important to remember that the pace of the vaccination programme is increasing in Buckinghamshire and we are pushing hard to make sure things move faster going forward. We hope that residents can be reassured that there is a way out of this pandemic, and that their area will soon be covered by a vaccination centre if it is not already. More age groups and vulnerable patients will be offered the vaccination over the coming weeks and months, in line with the national priorities of the phased rollout.
“We would ask that residents please be patient and not call their GP practice to arrange a vaccination appointment. The NHS will instead contact you when the time is right. I appreciate this has been a frustrating time and we are all eager to see those most in need get their vaccinations as soon as possible, but your patience and support is greatly appreciated.
“In the meantime, I would ask everyone to please continue to follow the ‘Stay at Home’ rules to the letter to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe, and to protect the NHS.”
Details of the vaccination programme in Buckinghamshire can be found on the Council’s website https://www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/coronavirus/community-hub/covid-19-vaccination-programme/
The list of the JCVI’s top four priority groups comprise around 120,000 people in Buckinghamshire.
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- Please see below for a full list of which GP practices are covered by GP led vaccination sites in Buckinghamshire. Please note, the site planned for Buckingham will cover patients from The Swan Practice. Details of the planned site for south of the county will follow soon.
Winslow Local Vaccination Site:
This site will administer the vaccine to patients eligible registered at:
- Ashcroft Surgery
- Waddesdon Surgery
- 3W Health
Your GP will either call you or send a letter inviting you to your appointment. Please do not call the GP or go to the vaccination site without an invitation
A further site going live on Friday 15 January:
Aylesbury Local Vaccination Site
This site will administer the vaccine to eligible patients registered at:
- Berryfields Medical Centre
- Edlesborough Surgery
- Haddenham Medical Centre
- Mandeville Surgery
- Meadowcroft Surgery
- Oakfield Surgery
- Poplar Grove Practice
- Westongrove PCN
- Whitehill Surgery
5 Jan 2021 National Lockdown – Stay at Home
Full details of the latest guidance and rules can be found on the Government’s Covid Lockdown advice page. Further information will be made available once received.
5 Jan 2021 Bucks Unitary Press Release
During the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on 4 January, he announced that people who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be asked to shield again.
What does this mean?
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you will receive a letter from the government in the coming days outlining what precautions you should take. You should not leave the house to go to work, to the shops or the pharmacy. When you receive your letter you will need to register on – https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support – if you require support or wish to access a priority supermarket delivery slot.
If you would like to look at what local support is available to help you shield effectively, visit the Bucks Online Directory – https://directory.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/
If you need urgent help, fill in the contact us form on our website –
or call the council on 01296 395000.
For the latest shielding advice please visit –
I am not clinically extremely vulnerable but need support during the lockdown
Residents of Buckinghamshire who are struggling during lockdown can get support from the Council and the local community in a number of ways:
- To see a list of local support groups and services near you, visit – https://directory.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/
- Log onto our website and let us know what support you need – fill in the ‘contact us’ form – https://www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/your-council/contact-us/
- If you need to speak to someone about the impact of COVID on a vulnerable person or family, please call the Council on 01296 395000.
Coronavirus advice and links to information:
Local lifelines support work for residents at highest risk
Anyone concerned about a vulnerable person who may need support can contact Buckinghamshire Council by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or telephoning 01296 383204.