Two years on from the announcement of the city’s first lockdown, medical services are feeling the effect of increasing cases, and the city’s director of public health is urging those still unvaccinated to have the jab.
Dr Zak McMurray, GP and medical director at NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the CCG was now aware a number of practices were being affected by staff absences due to Covid, with many staff being quite unwell and unable to work remotely.
Precautionary measures are still in place in healthcare settings including lateral flow testing, self-isolation for positive cases and self-isolation for staff with symptoms which means several practice staff may be absent at the same time. He said there were already significant NHS staffing shortages.
He said: “We are working with Primary Care Sheffield to support practices. The CCG has allocated additional funding for primary care this year as well as additional national funding to help address Covid capacity issues, provide support and improve IT infrastructure. This has gone towards increasing extended access to GP services making more evening and weekend appointments available for patients.
“This includes ‘hot’ extended access hubs for patients with covid symptoms and ‘cold’ extended access for patents with no covid symptoms, a GP home visiting service using paramedics supported by a GP, additional Advanced Nurse Practitioners being available to provide an urgent same day care service during the winter months, supporting remote working and IT for practice staff and strengthening infection prevention and control to support face to face appointments.”
Sheffield’s director of public health, Greg Fell, says two years on from the first lockdown, vaccinations have changed things – but he knows cases are on the up again, and is urging those still unvaccinated to have the jab.
He said: “The figures are on the up. We saw the Omicron wave one in late December, rising to a level we had not seen before, going up frighteningly fast.
“It is still Covid, just a different variant – BA2, they are calling it. It is increasing everywhere, not just Sheffield, and replacing BA1 but it’s not going up at the same rate as Omicron version one did.”
He said the Office for National Statistics’ infection survey had recently indicated around one in four has the virus.
He said: "The group I’m most concerned about is the unvaccinated, especially those who have not had the virus so have no immunity, particularly older people in that group, and pregnant women.
"The answer is get vaccinated, because vaccine protection is still holding up. It is probably the same severity as Omicron, which although people talked about it being ‘milder’ still caused people to be very poorly."
He said the NHS was looking to start rolling out spring booster vaccines for over 75s, with plans to roll it out quickly in Sheffield.
"If you’re offered a spring booster, you should take it,” he said. “And that’s a conversation I had with my mum yesterday.”