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Suffolk NHS chiefs spell out coronavirus latest to stop unnecessary calls to GPs

The Suffolk NHS is looking to clarify the latest on vaccinations and shielding to reduce the number of calls made to GP practices.

Surgeries across the county have been inundated with callers asking: 'When will flu vaccinations be available for 50-64 year olds?' 'Can you write me a letter to say I am shielding?' and 'When will a coronavirus vaccine be available?'

The NHS is this week looking to set the record straight to avoid further unnecessary calls and emails.

GP call handlers have been inundated with queries, which have now been clarified by the NHS (stock picture)
GP call handlers have been inundated with queries, which have now been clarified by the NHS (stock picture)

Dr Mark Shenton, chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and Professor of Integrated Care at the University of Suffolk, said: “The flu vaccination programme is now well underway, with GP practices and community pharmacies having already administered thousands of vaccines to the most vulnerable people in our communities, such as those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and those with a long-term health condition.

“There will be a national announcement on flu vaccinations for those aged 50 – 64 years. This is expected sometime in November or December, depending on flu vaccine availability. Until we know more there is no need to contact your GP practice.”

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “While during the previous lockdown the most vulnerable people in our communities were urged to shield themselves in order to protect their health, this is currently not the case.

"No one is being asked to shield and instead people must follow the new national restrictions. However, if you are considered clinically extremely vulnerable and shielded before, you are advised to follow the full advice on the Government’s website.

“It includes advice that you should stay at home as much as possible and are also strongly advised to work from home. If you cannot work from home, you should not attend work for this period of restrictions. You are also advised not to go to the shops or a pharmacy, but to shop online if you can or ask others to collect and deliver shopping or medicines for you.

“New shielding letters are not available from your GP as shielding is not being advised nationally.”

Dr Hasan Chowhan, a GP in Colchester and chairman of NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I urge people not to call their GP practice asking when a Covid-19 vaccine might be available, as our staff don’t currently know the answer."

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