We began the merged Granton and BG clinics for COVID-19 on Friday the 18th of December as early adopters. Since then virtually every week we have vaccinated patients en-masse on Fridays and Saturdays. The clinics run at St Helier’s practice in Northfield which is our local Clinical Network’s (PCN) approved site with sufficient dedicated space to undertake a mass vaccination program.
The organisation is brilliant. I’d describe it as military with added smile. The patients are virtually all hugely grateful. The atmosphere of team working to this common purpose is extremely positive. St Helier’s staff and leaders have been welcoming, helpful and organised. The estates manager Neil can solve most issues on the ground eg directing us to wheel chairs for patients who have that need. Karen the Practice Manager updates us with emails. And Barbara King the PCN Chair and GP initially was hands on helping and remains committed to the cause, providing overarching leadership.
Our teams arrive and take over large parts of the ground floor of St Helier’s. Much work goes on before we get to the clinic days, with assigning staff and volunteers to roles, appointing up to 715 patients per day – no mean task. Our thanks go out to the office managers who are running the ‘shows’ and to the administrators of the COVID staff/volunteer Whatsapp groups.
As one of the GP’s said we couldn’t continue to provide this impressive scale of efficient and friendly service without the volunteers. We have been approached by retired Drs who have recovered GMC registration and done the required NHS approved training to become vaccinators. This involves eg anaphylaxis and basic life support updates and bespoke training for COVID vaccinations and separate ones for the Pfizer- BionTECH and Astra-Zeneca – known as Oxford jabs. And then many friends and retired staff have volunteered for administration roles such as welcoming patients at the door, often in arctic conditions. Mark helped to clear the car park on one snowy Saturday. Forehead, ‘star trek type’ Temperature taking- often reading low due to the ambient temperature is another role.
The patient then arrives through our one way system and at the log in desk and is directed to one of 7 – 11 taped markings on the floor equating to the vaccination rooms. Here they are often greeted like old friends to clinicians who have not seen them for the most part in the last year of ‘COVID- times’. There is clinical efficiency with human warmth. Each room has a vaccinator, Nurse, Clinical Pharmacist or Dr (mainly GP’s and we have volunteer friends from the Children’s and other hospitals. And we soon learnt that the process works much better and faster with an administrator adding the data to Pinnacle (a Government Computer system). The administrators are either from our staff or volunteers – often with agile young IT savvy brains, and not all. One very senior pharmacist (doff’s cap) is often seen inputting for one of our nurses who happens to be his spouse. Neighbours and friends of ours, and our adult children are also keeping this labour intensive vital work on track.
We love it. The human interaction, the sense of doing a good thing, the right thing, the achievement from all pulling together it’s a tonic that is not prescribable.
Many laughs have been generated as one recognises a patient about to be called by a colleague and say ‘ watch that one’ or some other slight naughtiness with huge smile.
With the Pfizer-BionTECH vaccine it comes in a form that has to be diluted in a particular way. We have a central store with monitored fridges. And in this hive of activity a CCG Pharmacist helps us to account for all the vials and make up the vaccine.
When a patient has this particular vaccine they have to wait for 15mins as anaphylaxis – a violent allergic reaction has been seen in 28 patients ( at the time of drafting) worldwide. So they come out of the vaccination room with a sticker telling them when they can leave. In Penrith my Mother was given a stop clock. We are not so advanced in the West Mids. More staff patrol this waiting area monitoring for a reaction. Thankfully, so far we have not seen one.
We have also vaccinated all of our 9 care homes. Sent out a ‘mob’ of staff to do this by the second week in January. It was full on and hugely rewarding. We demonstrated great organisation and drive to get this done so early. Patients and staff having the vaccination. Occasional anti-vax views were encountered from care home staff and one patient with dementia has family who will not permit her to have the vaccination.
The housebound are currently having their vaccinations, thanks to nurses and others going to meet this need.
It’s full on providing these vaccination clinics and they are set to continue into the summer. It’s a marathon. We are so, so grateful to staff and volunteers alike that have put in so much so far and are continuing to support this vital campaign.
We have learned as we go. Trying to ensure that patient’s do not arrive early. Some do and then queues form in the bad weather outside. This is the source of the one or two complaints out of the thousands of vaccinations undertaken. We ran out of vaccine once as the Astra-Zeneca vials of 10 often give 11 doses, and not always. We now keep strict tabs on the numbers given and avoid sending anyone away without their passport to safety.
Bring on the cohorts. And then the second jabs with their 12 week delays. Those legitimate coffee mornings of the retired GP’s are set to continue.
There follows an account from one of our volunteer vaccinators:
Covid Vaccine Clinic
Over recent weeks, I’ve been volunteering as a data inputter for the Covid 19 vaccine programme for BG and Granton surgeries. Week on week the staff have welcomed me with warmth, kindness and masked friendly smiles. Teamed with a vaccinator, I watched and listened to many heart warming stories unfold as patients were called in. It was clear that many have had little, if any, social contact for the best part of a year. Some wanted a photo, to capture the moment to send to loved ones they yearned to see.
“An historic moment of hope” one 82 year old said to me. “Does this mean we can really go to Spain in the Summer?” another couple questioned . Many asked if the vaccine meant they could finally hug their grandchildren. The humour and the hope created a buzz in the clinic that was almost tangible.
A patient working as a pilot, involved now in transporting vaccines rather than passengers, gave an account of the difficulties he’d encountered following the freak snow conditions across Europe. It became clear how fragile the entire vaccine programme is, but also how people have pulled together taking on new roles in order to make it happen.
I feel very grateful for the opportunity to volunteer in the clinic. It has been a truly eye opening and humbling experience. Thank you BG and Granton surgeries for letting me be part of your journey.
Ishika Sanghera – Yr 13 .
Suggest adding team photo of the staff and volunteers for the newsletter?
Update April 2021
What an incredible spring! 15 consecutive weekends of vaccinating including Good Friday. It’s a mammoth task. And our ‘outreach’ teams have completed the second ‘jabs’ for all the 9 care homes that we serve. Great work, providing greater safety for patients and staff alike.
The developing picture continues to blur and come back into focus as the Oxford A-Z vaccine has been questioned in Europe and now we have updated guidance. It all adds to patient’s anxieties and complexity for the professional’s involved in vaccination clinics. And as my colleague rightly says we adapt and are once again resilient.
As predicted this is a marathon with sprint sections and now steeplechase hurdles to negotiate. We remain and continue to be grateful to our volunteers who not only do a fantastic set of jobs to enable us to be advanced in this process but also bake cakes and bring much cheer.
Our deeply felt thanks to our dedicated staff, our bank of ‘Silver Syringers’, and the incredible non-medical volunteers.
Phil Western on behalf of College Green Medical Practice.