“Get boosted now” urges new Devon health and care leader Dr Sarah Wollaston

Dr Sarah Wollaston, newly appointed leader of Devon’s health and care system, has urged people who haven’t yet had a Covid-19 vaccine to reconsider, as parts of the county experience the highest case numbers in the UK.

Dr Wollaston, a GP and former MP for Totnes, took up the role of chair of the Integrated Care System for Devon on 1 December 2021 and has been volunteering as a vaccinator alongside GP teams in Exmouth this week.

She said: “If you are hesitant about the vaccine please look again. This is a really dangerous disease. It’s not just about preventing the risk of you ending up with severe disease, on a ventilator or dying as a result of Covid, it’s also about reducing the risk of really unpleasant conditions such as Long Covid.”

Plymouth continues to have the UK’s highest case numbers with 856.8 cases per hundred thousand people, Devon 583.3 and Torbay 579.2.

“It may be that people who have had Covid or two doses of the vaccine think they have immunity and will put this off, but really you’re not protected from the Omicron variant,” added Dr Wollaston. “It’s really important to get the booster. It’s the best way to keep yourself safe but also crucially to protect the people around you and your wider community.

“Please do come forward and get boosted, we’re doing everything we can to ramp up the booster campaign. Having the booster is the thing you can do to stop the spread of Omicron.”

The Zoe Covid study has found that having Covid gives much less immunity than having the vaccination and that one in five people do not develop any natural immunity at all after having the virus.

People who struggle to stand in a queue at a vaccine centre can advise a marshal, who will assist them.

Appointments at one of our sites remains the best way to get your vaccine and can be booked via the National Booking System.  Details of walk-in clinics are being regularly shared on NHS Devon CCG’s social media pages. You can find your nearest walk-in clinic on NHS England’s site finder here.

Stay safe and well as temperatures drop

With wintry weather on the way, the NHS and local authorities in Devon are reminding people of the importance of ensuring people who are more vulnerable to cold are able to stay safe and warm. 

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health said: “This winter, it’s more important than ever that we all take steps to ensure that we keep well, and those around us keep well.  With colder weather arriving, it’s a timely reminder to encourage people to think ahead to what they might need in the house in terms of provisions and medication, and about what they can do to stay warm and healthy.  It’s also a reminder for us to look out for our more vulnerable friends and family who may appreciate a bit of support.”

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Torbay’s Director of Public Health: “Older people and those with underlying health conditions like heart disease may become severely ill if they do not keep warm when the temperatures fall. It is important to keep warm and to look out for neighbours and relatives, particularly older ones and those who may live alone, as the weather gets colder.”

Director of Public Health in Plymouth Dr Ruth Harrell said: “With the cost of heating rising, it’s really tempting to think of heat as a luxury; but it isn’t. It literally can be a life-saver. There is help out there for you so please do access it if you need it.”


  • Heating your home to at least 18C, including overnight, is particularly important if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease.
  • If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to sleep.
  • If you don’t use mains gas or electricity make sure you have sufficient fuel .
  • Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer; this will trap the heat better.
  • People who are mobile should continue to exercise and keep moving during the day. It is best not to sit for more than an hour if possible.
  • Have sufficient medication, including repeat prescriptions and food at home in case very cold or icy weather sets in

If cold weather sets in people are being asked to check on family, friends and neighbours who are more vulnerable, but to ensure they follow COVID-19 guidance.

NHS Devon’s deputy chief nurse Susan Masters said: “Being cold isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be bad for your health. Sitting or sleeping in a cold room increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and breathing problems.

“It is also important to keep your bedroom windows closed on a winter’s night as breathing cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.”

Making your home more energy efficient can help to keep you warm and reduce bills.

  • Fitting draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors.
  • Making sure you have loft insulation. And if you have cavity walls, make sure they are insulated too.
  • Insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes.
  • Draw your curtains at dusk and tuck behind radiators to help keep heat inside.
  • Make sure your radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains

There are a number of safety measures to take when using heating appliances:

  • Get your heating system and cooking appliances checked and keep your home well ventilated.
  • If you have an electric blanket, use it as instructed and get it tested every three years. Never use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket.
  • Do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home; it is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning which can kill.

There is lots of help on hand for people who are vulnerable.  For government endorsed independent advice on energy bills and energy efficiency, contact Simple Energy Advice online or on 0800 444202.  Power and utility companies have schemes which make at-risk groups a priority for reconnection following power cuts.

Plymouth residents who are struggling with the cost of heating can access support through Plymouth Energy Community

The government household support scheme, which runs until Thursday 31 March 2022, is available to people across Devon, Torbay and Plymouth and can be used for short term food and utility costs as well as emergency boiler and heating repairs and housing costs.

Those with care responsibilities, whether for family members or on a professional or voluntary basis, can consult the Cold Weather Plan for England for a range of useful advice.

Tavistock residents hear about exciting plans to transform mental health

Residents in Tavistock were able to hear about ambitious plans to transform community mental health in Devon at the recent Community Wellbeing event at Butchers Hall.

Staff from Devon Partnership Trust (DPT) and Livewell Southwest (LSW) – the providers of adult community mental health across Devon – were on hand to share information, listen to feedback and answer questions at the event on Friday, 12 November.

DPT and LSW are leading on work to transform, expand and improve community mental health services across the county as part of the Community Mental Health Framework.

The providers are working alongside Primary Care Networks, the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE) and those with lived experience to ensure that care is more consistent, joined up and better meets the needs of individuals as well as their local communities.

Ali Kingdon, Locality Change Co-ordinator at Devon Partnership Trust, who is helping to bring local partners together in the South and West of Devon, including Tavistock, was one of the representatives on the day.

She said: “It was a brilliant day and we were delighted to be able to talk to so many people about the work we’re doing to try and improve community mental health across Devon.

“We heard first-hand of people’s experiences of accessing mental health services, what’s worked well for them and what they think could be improved and also from people who haven’t accessed our services but who may need to in the future.

“We know how important it is that services are as close-to-home as possible for people and that sometimes people have had to wait too long to receive help or have fallen through the gap between services and feedback from people on the day really reiterated some of these issues.

“The framework really looks to address these issues by ensuring that we work really closely alongside our GPs and Primary Care Networks and our amazing voluntary and third sector organisations to bring care and support closer to people’s homes and ensure that the right help is received at the right time and in the right place whether that’s attending a community group or benefitting from more structured treatment from a mental health team.

“We want to ensure we get this right for people and we’ll be attending lots of events over the coming months including Carers sessions so that we can gather more feedback and input.”

If you want to find out more about the framework, you can visit the Together for Devon website.

Alternatively, you can email dpn-tr.communications@nhs.net if you would like to receive updates about the framework or get involved.


Meet the ‘Transformers’ from Hollacombe Community Resource Centre

Every month, we highlight a team or project that is working in partnership to support local health and care.

 This time, we hear from the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust team who run the Hollacombe Community Resource Centre in Preston, Paignton.

 To share your story, get in touch.

Who are your team and what do you do?

We support young people and adults who have a learning disability and complex health and social needs in the way they choose and deserve. We offer a range of activities in Hollacombe and the wider community we aim to enrich people’s lives in order for them to lead a fulfilled life. We advocate for individuals to ensure their best interests are met to the highest of standards, supporting families and carers, listening and sign posting when needed. To care!

What’s the most rewarding/enjoyable part of your role?

There are so many! Working within a strong team, never having a day without hearing laughter in Hollacombe. Learning all the time, acknowledging and admiring each other’s strengths. Seeing someone who we work with smile, laugh, be happy and achieve.

Knowing that we make a positive impact to each of the people we care for on a daily basis.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

Ensuring we achieve the balance between giving people a good, fun filled quality of life whilst keeping them safe.

What achievement is your team most proud of?

We worked through the pandemic keeping people safe and well at Hollacombe and in the community adapting to outreach work. Some staff took on other roles to support different teams.

Which other teams do you mainly work with?

We work closely with the physiotherapy; speech and language; dietician and district nursing teams, as well as a range of others including learning disability primary care liaison nurses, epilepsy nurses, social workers/care managers, transition team, other local providers and Mayfield School and College.

What’s the best bit of feedback you have ever experienced from a service user?

We receive lots of positive feedback but for us one of the most important things is that people place their trust in us to look after their loved ones keeping them safe and well and individuals look forward to coming to Hollacombe every day.

What would the soundtrack to you team be?

We chose two because they both sum up our team and the people that we work with so well:

  • Queen, Don’t stop me now – we all aim to keep on learning new things, developing the service and being the best we can be whilst having a great time!
  • Spandau Ballet, Gold – as a team we are indestructible and believe in ourselves and the people who we work with.

And if you had to choose a film to represent your team, what would it be?

Transformers – we are always adapting ourselves to different situations to meet the needs of the service and to support other services.

Get the latest news from Devon’s health and care system by signing up to our monthly One Devon Bulletin.

Kailo project to address causes of mental ill health

The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector is a key partner in our Integrated Care System. Each month, this feature highlights work by a VCSE organisation operating in partnership with local health and care services to help local people.

A research and design charity in Devon is among a group of local partners who will be developing a project to improve adolescent mental health in disadvantaged communities.

The project has been awarded £5.3 million and during the initial phase of the five-year initiative, it is being trialled in two distinct communities experiencing differing forms of disadvantage: North Devon and Newham in East London. It is called Kailo, which means connected or whole. 

The concept of connectivity is at the heart of the project, which will bring local communities and system leaders together.  Their mission is to design community infrastructures, services and support that addresses the health inequalities that can increase a young person’s chance of developing poor mental health.

Evidence shows that young people are struggling with their mental health more than ever before, further exacerbated by the pandemic and uncertainties about their future.

Professor Tim Hobbs, Chief Executive from Dartington Service Design Lab, said: “Mental health promotion needs to be considered in a contextualised way if we are to make a positive difference. The current system for addressing mental ill health has developed to be reactive, under the strain of limited resources. This means that a response is often triggered only when a problem becomes severe.

“This new, connected approach will support practitioners and community leaders to work with young people and families to co-design evidence-informed and locally tailored strategies designed to address the underlying causes of mental ill health in their area.”

The research and design team is led by Professor Peter Fonagy OBE, of UCL Psychology and Language Sciences.

Work in North Devon will begin in the January 2022 and the initial phase will see partnerships being developed across the area, including through the Integrated Care System, One Northern Devon, associated local organisations and young people.

In the Spring of 2022 work will begin to research, explore and co-design ambition strategies and a portfolio or activities go promote adolescent mental health. This is detailed phase aims to ensure that approaches are carefully designed using in-depth local insight, engagement with existing evidence and ensuring that young people and communities are at the centre.

Get the latest news from Devon’s health and care system by signing up to our monthly One Devon Bulletin.

Voluntary sector alliance for mental health services

Extensive engagement between the NHS and charities in Devon has helped shape how voluntary, community, social enterprise and independent sector (VCSEI) organisations can be at the forefront of improving mental health in the county.

The work has been taking place to help develop Devon’s new Community Mental Health Framework and an alliance of VCSEI organisations has now formed.

The alliance will work collaboratively with statutory health services and local authorities to agree on a contract, with a view to signing it in December. The alliance will then be at the heart of plans to improve how people in Devon with severe mental health problems are supported.

The alliance comprises:

  • Improving Lives Plymouth,
  • Devon Mind,
  • Shekinah,
  • Step One,
  • CoLab Exeter and
  • Rethink Mental Illness

These organisations have a long track record of supporting people. Each will be able to bring particular knowledge and experience to make the combined force even stronger.

Amanda Kilroy, Chief Executive of CoLab Exeter, said: “As an alliance of locally based organisations, we work with over 30,000 people a year to improve their mental health. This opportunity will provide a platform for us to increase the impact we make, and a framework to support wider VCSEI and statutory partners across the county who do such a great job in raising the wellbeing of Devon residents.”

Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s Senior Commissioning Manager for Adult Mental Health, Justin Wiggin, said: “A lot of hard work has gone in to reaching this important stage. The response to our initial plans from the VCSEI sector has been amazing. We have now reached the stage where we can sit down together and get into the detail of the role Devon’s VCSEI will play in delivering the Framework and improving the support available across the county.”

Get the latest news from Devon’s health and care system by signing up to our monthly One Devon Bulletin.

Council and NHS seek views of local community

An NHS trust and a town council are working together on the future of a former community hospital and are keen to hear views from the local community.

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and Dartmouth Town Council are exploring whether the community can buy the former Dartmouth Hospital site (pictured), and whether its redevelopment could include uses specifically to benefit people in and around Dartmouth. They now want to hear about what new facilities local people would like to see on the site.

The former hospital site is no longer needed for healthcare and a new, £4.8m Health and Wellbeing Centre is being built at the top of the town.

The Trust and the Council are asking local people to share their views in a survey being run for them by the independent health and social care champion, Healthwatch. The survey is live now and runs until 08 December. 

Click here to find out more and access the survey.

Get the latest news from Devon’s health and care system by signing up to our monthly One Devon Bulletin.

Teaming up to launch health and wellbeing hub

Council and NHS partners have marked the official opening of the St Budeaux and Barne Barton Wellbeing Hub in Plymouth.

The hub, which has been operating from William Sutton Memorial Hall in St Budeaux during the COVID pandemic, was officially launched on 11 November.

Launched Plymouth City Council, NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group and Colebrook Southwest, which owns the building, this is the latest in a series of wellbeing hubs commissioned across the city.

The St Budeaux and Barne Barton Wellbeing Hub will offer a range of services to help improve health and wellbeing outcomes for its community. Click here for more details.

Get the latest news from Devon’s health and care system by signing up to our monthly One Devon Bulletin.