There has been a lot of confusion about letters and text messages, and we hope this post will make things a bit clearer.
There are two completely separate systems running for covid vaccines. There are the Government run mass vaccination centres which are nationwide and also include some NHS pharmacy locations, such as Boots in Gloucester. The closest mass vaccination centres to the Forest of Dean are in Malvern, Birmingham, and Bristol. Appointments at these locations can only be booked via the National Booking Service, either online or by calling 119, not via your GP Surgery.
Then there are the local, GP led vaccination services. For the Forest of Dean this is run from the Cinderford Vaccination Centre in the old surgery building next to the Co-op. This service is run and staffed by people working for the Forest GP surgeries and volunteers. Appointments at Cinderford can only be booked via your GP Surgery, either by using a link in a text message sent to your mobile phone, or your Surgery will contact you by telephone. This page can only provide information on the local roll out and what is happening here in the Forest - your Surgery will have no information on appointments offered by or access to the national booking system.
The Government are sending out letters telling people they are eligible for covid vaccines, and the latest batch is going out to people aged 55-59 this week. The reason the Government are sending out these letters to 55-59 year olds now is to keep the numbers going through the national sites by offering vaccines to those who are able to travel and to support the local sites ensuring there is availability for those who want or need to be vaccinated locally.
Many people are choosing to have vaccines done closer to home, and are waiting for invitations to the local centres. This is particularly true in the Forest, where the mass vaccination centres are quite a long way away. (This is particularly important to many people because you have to have your second dose from the same provider as the first dose).
We are using a text messaging system of appointment booking to book appointments at the Cinderford Centre. If there is no mobile number on your medical record, or if after a few days the text booking link has not been used, then your Surgery will contact you by telephone. This will be for an appointment at the Cinderford Centre only.
If you get a letter from the Government, but want to have your vaccine at Cinderford, you can simply ignore the letter. Please do not call your Surgery - we have been inundated with calls from patients who have received Government letters but who don't want to travel. If you want to be vaccinated at Cinderford then you need to wait for us to contact you.
We check our lists regularly to identify those who have not already been vaccinated and who is in an eligible group. You just need to wait for your phone call or for your text message inviting you to make an appointment. Your appointment can be booked, (and also cancelled) through the text message on your phone. We contact patients in batches, either by text or by phone call, based on the number of available appointments we have to ensure there are enough vaccines for everyone who has been invited.
The letters from the Government are sent out all in one go, which is why if you try now to book at one of the larger centres the only option available is Malvern. This is because all the appointments at closer locations are fully booked at that time. More appointments are added regularly so if you are happy to travel then please try again a little later. Please do not call your Surgery because Malvern is the only option available. If you do not want to travel then you will need to wait to be offered an appointment at Cinderford.
The two systems are separate, and it can take 2-3 days for vaccines given elsewhere to be notified to the GP surgeries, we do not know if someone has an appointment booked at a national site, or if they have been vaccinated within the previous few days. It is not ideal, but this is what we have. If you do book at one of the National centres and then receive a text message from your Surgery, please use the link in the message to let us know you have booked elsewhere. Then we will know we do not need to contact you. Likewise, if you book at one centre and then decide to have your vaccination somewhere else, please make sure you cancel the appointment you no longer need so that this can be offered to someone else.
The vaccine system has been working really well in the Forest, and we can keep it working this well for everyone if we can get this message out to as many people as possible.
This is where we need your help -
Please spread the word, tell your friends, repost on other pages, whatever we have to do in order to ensure that everyone is clear about what to do when they get a letter from the Government.
The Forest Surgeries are currently booking Group 7, those aged 60 to 64. The message remains the same, if you want to have your vaccination at Cinderford then please wait for your Surgery to contact you. Rest assured we are working as hard as we can to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible.
We thank you all for your support.