04:49PM, Tuesday 27 October 2020
A GP has urged people to continue contacting their doctor if they have concerns over other illnesses during the pandemic.
Surgeries across the country have changed the way they operate to reduce the risk of patients transmitting the virus to practices.
Patients in Berkshire are pre-screened before all appointments with people given the chance to speak to their doctor by phone, send in pictures or answer questions online.
Those who require further face-to-face consultation are then asked to attend the surgery in person.
Dr Jim O’Donnell, interim chairman of the East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The message is we are here all the time, we have never gone away.
“We’re actually a good deal busier than we were before and if there’s something you are worried about, even if you feel its not too serious, I do not want you to wait a day longer.”
Dr O’Donnell, also a partner at the Farnham Road Surgery in Slough, said he hoped a COVID-19 vaccine could be available for high-risk groups by the end of the year.
He said this would be the “light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps”.
Pharmaceutical firms have been working round-the-clock to develop a vaccine since the outbreak began earlier this year.
British-based AstraZeneca teamed up with Oxford University to trial vaccines while GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has worked alongside French multinational Sanofi.
Care home staff, care home residents and NHS staff will be among the first groups available for vaccination as well as those deemed to be ‘high risk’ and living with complex illnesses.
Dr O’Donnell said he expects the vaccine will involve two jabs with one on day zero and one on day 28.
“We think immunity after immunisation will be pretty good and we think it will last for a period,” he said.
“Is that going to be six months or two years? We really don’t know at the moment.”
The Upton Hospital Walk-in Centre, in Slough, temporarily closed in May as part of efforts to restrict the spread of COVID-19 and a change in the way services are delivered.
But Dr O’Donnell said the walk-in centre will only re-open when there is a high uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine within the population, thus reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
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