Tensions are running high everywhere. Frustrations expressed on social media, desperation for the vaccine to get us out of this seemingly never-ending situation of social distancing and lockdown. But the logistics required to make this happen on a national scale have been enormous. Behind the scenes in the GP surgeries we have had to learn how to handle the three new vaccines, make a plan that hopefully dovetails in with the supply of the vaccine that the government can arrange, not to mention carrying on with our usual work at a busy time of year. There have been an unbelievable amount of complex Standard Operating Procedures to read and inwardly digest just for it to be updated a couple of days later.
GPs know how to run vaccination campaigns, having run the flu jab clinics for years, but these new vaccines have to be handled with such care and the Pfizer vaccine cannot be transported again once delivered to its destination. The logistics of transportation and managing supply of the vaccine meant that the Government asked us to choose one site in our Primary Care Network (Henfield, Billingshurst, Steyning and Storrington) as our primary vaccination site. The brand new surgery in Storrington was chosen as it was the most central and most suited to a large vaccination effort.
Each different type of vaccine needs to be treated differently. How to store them, draw them up, how quickly we have to use them, how to transport them to Nursing Homes, whether patients have to wait 15 mins afterward, who we can and can’t vaccinate, in which order. Not to mention how to run a clinic and maintain social isolation and Covid safety, and for the Pfizer vaccine, how to do 975 vaccines within 3 days of it arriving at Storrington, with unpredictable delivery dates and often no notice.
In our rural community, we have always been brilliant at working together. Our volunteers have been helping with crowd control at Storrington, and the Henfield Link drivers have been driving people over there. We should have vaccinated all our patients who are over 80 by the end of January (vaccine supply allowing). Then we will start on the next group.
As more of the AstraZeneca (Oxford) vaccine is produced and delivered, we are very much hoping that we will be able to ramp up the vaccination programme by vaccinating from all four surgeries in the PCN. We are making plans in readiness for this at Henfield. The rate-limiting factor at the moment is the supply of the vaccine.
It was a wonderful feeling getting all the residents and staff of Red Oaks nursing home vaccinated yesterday (Saturday 9 Jan). I was in full PPE, but sticking out of the bottom of my gown were my leopard print trousers, and one elderly resident gave me a big grin as I jabbed him, pointed to my trousers and said “Cheetah!”. There are no words!
We want to reassure you all that finally the vaccine is coming. We are rolling it out in strict order and we know who you all are (!), so no need to call us, we will contact you.
As you know, the numbers of Covid-19 patients in Henfield have been increasing at an alarming rate. The hospitals are currently over-whelmed. We have been asked to monitor patients at home rather than send them into hospital, and also to enable earlier than usual discharge from hospital. We are ready for this with special finger oxygen monitors (pulse oximeters) that we can lend to patients (you can buy them on the internet too). We will only need to do this if you have breathing problems with Covid-19 and are high risk.
We have two brilliant new doctors joining us at Henfield medical practice to help us with all this work! Dr Will Shepherd and Dr Jay Driscoll. Dr Reade has sadly retired, although he is still helping us out with some clinics.
Finally, stay at home, even once vaccinated, until the numbers start to go down.
Karen Crawford Clarke, Senior partner, Henfield Medical Practice
For further information go to: Henfield Medical Centre website