Your guide to using local health and care services as lockdown eases

Find out what's open, where you can visit and what you might have to do differently.
Photo of man in face mask

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, most NHS services changed or stopped patient services to focus on dealing with coronavirus patients. 

As the number of people infected goes down, and the shielding programme ends from 1 August, services are starting to ease their restrictions.  However, you should wear a face covering to all health services and if you have symptoms of coronavirus, you must avoid visiting health premises altogether unless advised to do so by the NHS.

Current ways of working:

  • If you want to see a GP, phone first
    Phone or video consultations are becoming the norm but your doctor will ask you in if needed. They have dedicated examination rooms, cleaned between patients.
  • Use volunteers if you need a prescription pick-up
    As shielding ends on 1 August, many pharmacies won’t be funded to deliver medicines anymore, so use NHS Volunteers if you’re self-isolating with symptoms
  • Dentists are offering very limited services
    Routine appointments are mostly on hold but you can get advice and prescriptions on the phone or a referral to an urgent treatment centre. More guidance here
  • Pregnant women can now bring a birth partner to scans
    If your scan is at the Royal Berkshire Hospital or West Berkshire Community Hospital you can bring one named birthing partner or advocate.
  • Hospital inpatients can now have one visitor
    It should usually be the same person each time. The Royal Berkshire Hospital’s visiting rules and times for general and maternity wards are here
  • The Minor Injury Unit is back at the Royal Berkshire Hospital
    This service has returned after temporarily being moved to community hospitals. It is just inside the main Craven Rd entrance, open 8am-midnight or A&E other times
  • Hospital urges people to ‘Ask A&E’
    The Royal Berkshire Hospital is urging people to use its new online checker if they’re unsure about their urgent health problem.  Or call 111 or use 111 online
  • The Reading Walk-In Centre is closed to walk-in patients
    The Centre in Broad Street Mall was being used as a Covid hub but is now mainly focusing on registered patients, who have to phone first. No walk-ins allowed yet.
  • Walk-in blood test service still closed at Royal Berkshire Hospital
    If you can’t get it done at your GP's, call 01635 273343 to book in at Thatcham community hospital or walk in to Bracknell Healthspace 8am-3.30pm, weekdays
  • Prospect Park Hospital patients now allowed one visitor
    Arrange with wards in advance, and no under-12s without permission. Full visit rules here
  • Contact Talking Therapies initially for mental health needs
    People aged 17+ with stress, depression, anxiety or phobias can call or email Talking Therapies. Full details on community mental health services here
  • Care homes can start having visitors
    On 22 July, the government said visit restrictions could be relaxed. Each home will have its own process, such as appointment-only, so check first. More details here
  • Social workers doing many assessments by phone
    If you have social care needs, such as help at home, you can still get an assessment but it may be by phone unless a visit is essential. More details
  • Help on hand from health visitors
    Phone the Reading health visiting duty line on 9am-4.30pm 0118 931 2111 or email to get advice relating to your baby or child.
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) home kits available
    The Florey Clinic's walk-in service is still closed but you can get phone advice if you have symptoms or request a home testing kit online. Visit Safe Sex Berkshire
  • Voluntary sector support available
    Most charities are offering a phone service only at present but some have re-started face-to-face advice, such as Communicare. Check with each organisation.

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