THE TOP NHS primary care chief for Bracknell Forest has claimed attitudes towards coronavirus in fish and chip shops and pubs across the borough need to improve.

Dr Martin Kittel, East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) clinical lead for Bracknell Forest, suggested more education was needed to make sure vulnerable people across the borough are protected in these situations.

Speaking to NHS colleagues at a meeting of the CCG, he said: “It’s very important we educate the general public.

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“I don’t know how many of you have gone out shopping recently but whilst in the big supermarkets, you find there are most people wearing face masks.

“In the smaller shops, in the fish and chip shops, in some of the pubs and so, the attitude to safety can be a little bit less robust.

“I think there’s a lot of education that has to be done and can still be done to make sure that vulnerable groups don’t get over-proportionally exposed to this virus and that their health conditions are taken seriously.”

This comes as data recorded in the seven days up to Tuesday, October 26 shows Bracknell Forest has a coronavirus infection rate of 90.6 per 100,000 people.

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The borough is still in Tier One of the government’s coronavirus restrictions, but local authority areas typically move to Tier Two after passing a rate of 100 per 100,000 over seven days.

In comparison, the average seven-day rate for the South East in 94.6 per 100,000.

Dr Kittel was speaking at the CCG’s annual general meeting, where top NHS officials from across East Berkshire explained how they responded to the pandemic.

The GP added: “Bracknell Forest… [was an] exciting place during covid. Difficult sometimes but we’ve certainly had a very good working together and we never stopped from Day One.

“We just moved everything around and within a few days we were working, just working differently.”

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Dr Kittel praised surgeries’ responses to the pandemic, claiming doctors never stopped seeing patients and “over a thousand” people were seen face-to-face in the immediate weeks and months following lockdown.

He said the pandemic gave the CCG an opportunity to work with local authorities better with more discussions taking place about care packages and support for vulnerable people.

This led to “very good integration” with councils and what Dr Kittel described as a “very bright future” for the authorities going forward.

The CCG’s financial officer revealed the body spent £632 million in the year up to April 2020, an increase of £33 million from the previous year.

But this year does not take into account the full effect of the pandemic, and Debbie Fraser, the CCG’s deputy director of finance, did not indicate how the virus has impacted the group’s finances in the current year.

Speaking at the start of the meeting, Dr Andy Brooks told colleagues about the ways the pandemic has affected the group.

The CCG’s Clinical Chief Officer said: “This has been one of the most challenging years in NHS history for everyone in our community.

“We have responded to one of the biggest issues health organisations have faced in a generation.

“We have had to rise to the challenges caused by coronavirus and that has changed how we have been able to offer services.”

The annual general meeting was held virtually on Tuesday, October 20.