With Dominic Cummings, assistant to the British Prime Minister, talking about the early days of the pandemic, this is the week for opening up for indoor hospitality and cinemas, amusements, libraries and bingo. .
Six people from two households can meet indoors, international travel destinations are colour coded. Theatres and concert halls await a review on 10 June.
At the Stormont Health Committee on 20 May (which was during Mental Health Week), Belfast GP Dr Alan Stout of the British Medical Association attended by internet to discuss GP services.
Workloads are increasing but the workforce is decreasing with patients having more comorbidities and complex needs.
Waiting lists are rising and it is hoped that Covid Centres such as Beech Hall, can be reduced to release GPs.
Dr Stout felt the current model of GP practice was unsustainable. There were 17 GP federations which had all been signed up to but only 5 of the 17 had multi-disciplinary teams.
Very important outcome and thanks for your time and for listening earlier today Colm.— Alan Stout (@AlanStout19) May 20, 2021
Vital to have strong, effective and accessible primary care services for everyone https://t.co/pHkuchH1z6
There was inequity, with many GPs wishing to pursue portfolio careers working in other parts of the health service and social care service (HSC).
There is now a second medical school at Ulster University Magee College but it would be a full nine years before trained GPs would emerge. Primary care teams were exhausted and faced many challenges. Funding was not available and he believed that it was highly unlikely that there would be the desire or capacity for 100 per cent face-to-face general practice to return unless resources come from the transformation agenda budget.
There were complaints from MLAs about difficulties their constituents face in getting through to GP practices and. getting appointments. Meanwhile Emergency Departments were under pressure in relation to capacity and disparity. Some felt that General Practice should now be released from vaccination having delivered 600,000 vaccinations.
The Belfast GP felt that here was a balance between getting through and capacity. Cancer waits were important and receptionists were now clinical assistants, he said.
He felt that electronic prescribing was important and health care and mental health should be embedded in the community. Johnathan Buckley (DUP) was concerned about inequalities and Dr Stout felt there was also variance within practices and in the west and south west of the Six Counties.
Carál N Chuiln (Sinn Féin) said that some patients were writing to their practices as they could not get through on the phone. 500 people had been at the Emergency Department of RVH last week — a consequence, it is suspected, of the inability of the ill to see their GP.
If the 130 practices in Belfast had sent one extra patient per practice it would have overloaded the system.
It was also suggested at the meeting that in future patients would be asked to have a Covid test to see a GP.
Dr Laurence Dorman of the Royal College of General Practitioners and Mrs Rita Devlin of the Royal College of Nursing also attended the Committee to discuss the Health and Social Care Bill.
75 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported, a rate of 46.2 per 100,000. 1,647,207 vaccinations have been administered. There are 29 cases in hospital with two in intensive care.
The death toll remains at 2,152. Hospital occupancy is 102 per cent and there are outbreaks in four care homes. 612 cases have been reported up from 583 the previous week. 122,282 cases have been diagnosed.
US biotech firm Moderna has said that trials have shown its Covid-19 vaccine is "highly effective" in those aged 12-17 and Pfizer is to produce the mRNA drug substance for its vaccine in west Dublin. These mRNA vaccines are indicated in younger age groups where the risk of blood clot is relatively higher than that of having to be admitted to intensive care.