Combe Coastal Practice

The Medical Centre, St Brannocks Road, Ilfracombe EX34 8EG

Warning about vaccination text scam

There have been reports of a new scam where a person receives a text saying they need to book a vaccination appointment and it takes them to a fake NHS form, which then asks for their bank details to prove their identity. 

The NHS will never ask for peoples banking information. 

There is an information leaflet available to download here.

Thank you….

As 2020 draws to a close we can honestly say that it has been a year of challenge and change, Primary Care has seen more change in the last 9 months than we have seen in the last 10 years. However, this change has offered many positives and we have learnt to engage with our communities in a different way which has seen some significant benefits.

On Saturday we held the last of our weekend Flu clinics, the team at Combe Coastal have worked incredibly hard to design and implement safe systems in order to offer the Flu vaccinations and I hope you all felt well looked after if you attended.

Flu clinic Saturday 12th December 2020

The Flu vaccination season this year was a huge challenge, we were required to vaccinate our patients in a socially distanced way which meant we had to put on three times as many clinics, we were also advised by the Government to vaccinate our 50-64 groups with very little notice and a national shortage of Flu vaccines.

Despite this we have managed to contact our patients and offer this service, I have worked 2 of the Saturday Flu clinics located on the front door and I must say what a nice experience it was to meet with so many of our patients face to face with a level of interaction I very rarely get to enjoy. All of our patients were exemplary in their patience and understanding so for that we would like to say thank you to the whole community for the care you have taken to keep our valuable team safe.  

The picture of the team on Saturday is only representative of a small proportion of the whole team who made this possible, from the care taker opening up first thing, to the reception team taking and booking calls and helping with marshalling , the cleaners coming in afterwards to make sure everything is cleaned down, the management team who completely redesigned systems to the last detail and the GP’s and nurses administering the vaccine with a reassuring smile, it was a full team effort. They all gave up their Saturdays and worked extra to make sure we got the job done and we are lucky to have such a dedicated team who made this possible.

Now that we are concluding our Flu Vaccination Programme we will prepare to be part of the biggest vaccination programme ever seen, North Devon has its challenges but you can be assured that Combe Coastal is sat at the table having input on how we can ensure we deliver this to our patients.  We will update you on this when we are clearer, for the moment please do not contact the Practice for information or booking for the COVID vaccination programme. We will be contacting patients as per the roll out guidance as soon as possible.

Combe Coastal Practice will continue to operate in a caring and professional manner regardless of what 2021 brings, we will face the next challenging 12 months as we have during the past 9 months. If we do not see you before, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable Christmas and we will look forward to seeing you in 2021.

Matt Wills Practice Manager and the Combe Coastal team    

Free Vitamin D

More than two and a half million vulnerable people across England will be offered free Vitamin D supplements for the winter, the government has announced.

All care homes will automatically receive provision for their residents, while individuals on the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable list will receive a letter inviting them to opt in for a supply to be delivered directly to their homes. Deliveries will be free of charge, starting in January, and will provide four months’ worth of supplements to last people through the winter months. 

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: A number of studies indicate Vitamin D might have a positive impact in protecting against COVID-19. I have asked NICE and PHE to re-review the existing evidence on the link between COVID-19 and Vitamin D to ensure we explore every potential opportunity to beat this virus.

The advice from Public Health England is for everybody to take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of Vitamin D a day between October and early March to keep bones and muscles healthy.

Public Health England advises people who are more at risk of not having enough Vitamin D to take a Vitamin D supplement all year round. A range of products and doses are available at supermarkets, pharmacies and other retailers.

Anyone who is able to purchase a Vitamin D supplement and start taking them now is advised to do so, even if they are also eligible for a delivery later in the year.

Update for our patients regarding Flu Vaccinations

Good News – we have been able to procure more flu vaccinations from the central supply set aside by the Government. This will enable us to offer flu vaccination to the following groups of patients who perhaps were unable to book an appointment in our earlier flu clinics:

  • Patients aged 65 and above
  • At risk patients aged between 18 and 64, that is those with chronic underlying health conditions.

In addition:
A new group of patients, anyone aged between 50 and 64 is now also eligible for a free flu vaccination

We will be contacting patients via text message and our social media channels inviting you to book into our designated clinics; we have an additional weekend clinic on Saturday 12 December 2020 for these appointments and to ensure that we reach as many of our patients as possible.  

Please note that we are expecting a higher than usual demand for these flu vaccinations and appointments are available strictly subject to stock availability.

To book please call the surgery after 11am on: 01271 863119 or 863840 or 882406 or 870276

Please be aware that we do experience high call volumes at all times during surgery opening hours, and we would request that you call back if you do not get through at the first attempt. 

Important information about our Influenza Clinics this year:

We have introduced some significant changes to the way we are run these clinics this year due to the current COVID-19 situation. It is important that you are aware of the new arrangements before attending for your vaccination:

  • Social distancing must be maintained at all times, to protect patients and clinicians.
  • We will be restricting the number of people in the building at any one time.
  • We will be operating a one way system through the building.
  • Staff members wearing PPE will act as marshals to guide you safely
  • You will be required to queue from the front entrance.
  • Seating will not be available. However, if standing is a problem please alert one of our marshals so that alternative arrangements can be made.
  • Staff marshals will control entry to and exit from the building.
  • Toilets will not be available.
  • You should wear a face covering unless you are unable to do so.
  • You should not arrive early for your appointment.
  • You should arrive alone for your appointment unless you need the assistance of a carer.
  • Please wear outer clothing that is quick and easy to remove.
  • We will have car park attendants on site but there will be limited parking in order to ensure the safety of pedestrians entering and leaving the building. Please help us by parking elsewhere if possible.
  • It would be helpful to us if you could let us know if you would prefer not to participate in this year’s flu campaign.

Important Information for Patients regarding Flu Vaccination Programme

Flu Vaccination Programme 2020 overview:

The Flu vaccination programme is delivered across the UK by numerous healthcare providers; this includes GP’s and Pharmacies. It is a voluntary contract which is signed up to every year, there is no responsibility placed on any one organisation for delivery of this to the whole population.

Those eligible for a free Flu Vaccination are identified as over 65 or those being in one of the Chronic Disease Categories. The Government are currently assessing a widening of this group but there has been no directive on this yet.

As part of the Flu Vaccination Programme Primary Care have a requirement to contact all of the eligible groups to make them aware of the need for a Flu vaccination regardless of stock availability.

For Primary Care settings Flu stock ordering is completed in the November/December prior to the Flu season which commences 9 months later, this ordering is based upon the previous year’s uptake and the PHE guidance on clinically validated vaccines. The uptake at Combe Coastal over the last 3 years has been 60-65% of the eligible population; the Practice always orders more than this to ensure that there is a safe movement margin. However in 2019/2020 we destroyed 100’s of Flu vaccinations due to lack of uptake.


In March 2020 we were hit with the global COVID 19 Pandemic, this was 4 months after the Flu stock was ordered. Unfortunately public Government statements and media attention regarding COVID and Flu increased the demand to unprecedented levels which exceeded all pre ordered vaccinations across the healthcare sector. Essentially this has created a vacuum of public concern and expectation that could not be met.

Predicting this potential surge Combe Coastal did attempt several months ago to procure further vaccinations to meet this potential demand, unfortunately all of the excess vaccine stock had already been secured through central Government organisations.


We are now in the difficult position of trying to administer our current Flu Vaccines to those most in need, despite Government announcements regarding widening the vaccine programme we will be allocating our current stock to those patients originally identified in the at risk categories pre COVID. Due to the significant increased demand this however will still not be enough to vaccinate 100% of the eligible population, therefore we have taken the decision to identify those who are unable to get a Flu Vaccine from another source and are most at risk such as housebound patients and patients located in care homes. With the remaining stock we have been required to strictly offer vaccines to those who have called and booked an appointment, unfortunately this means that once those appointments are booked we do not have any further stock in reserve. You will therefore need to seek an alternative vaccine supplier such as the local pharmacy.


For those of us who have chosen to work in the healthcare industry this feels like a very compromising position, this position has not been arrived at due to lack of planning or lack of care for our patients. We are now trying as far as possible to get our patients vaccinated as fairly and safely as we can which will be no comfort to those still currently unable to get a vaccine.

We have attempted to work in partnership with our Pharmacy colleagues but unfortunately these options have quickly been exhausted due to demand.


The surgery does not have large amounts of stock held back just in case, the surgery cannot sell vaccines for those willing to pay for it, the reception team, the same day team, nurses or GP’s cannot authorise a Flu vaccine or respond to complaints regarding the lack of Flu vaccines.

Combe Coastal Practice will continue to deliver the best care possible under these difficult circumstances, we will continue to answer the phones and get you to the right service in a timely manner, the GP’s and nurses will continue to engage with you either over the phone, via video consult or face to face where needed as we have throughout the whole of the COVID pandemic.

My Sunrise App – support for anyone living with cancer.

This is a message from Northern Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT)

We would like to let you know about a new free app that we have developed to help prepare and support patients before, during and after cancer treatment. My sunrise North Devon provides a complete up-to-date information and reference tool for cancer patients and their families or carers and is complete with a whole range of videos, relevant links, cancer resources and contact information. There are also links to a wealth of information for patients having treatment in Exeter and Plymouth. We hope that you will download it and let us know what you think!

You can download the app by clicking on one of the links below:

Apple – ITunes

Android – Google Play

For more information about MySunrise North Devon, or if you have any questions, please speak to your healthcare professions, or see the Living With and Beyond Cancer page on the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust website: www.northdevonhealth.nhs.uk/services/living-with-and-beyond-cancer/