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The government has set out a new plan to offer a Covid-19 vaccine to all adults in England by autumn 2021.
To achieve this, the country’s network of vaccination sites will be rapidly expanded so that everyone will live within 10 miles of a place to get vaccinated.
“Our UK Covid-19 vaccines delivery plan maps our route back to normality”
By the end of January there will be 206 active hospital hubs, around 1,200 community services sites such as general practices and pharmacies, and 50 large-scale vaccination centres.
The ambitions were laid out by the Department of Health and Social Care today in its new UK Covid-19 vaccines delivery plan, which covers four key areas: supply, prioritisation, places and people.
The publication followed the approval of a third Covid-19 vaccine for use in the UK.
While a UK-wide approach has been taken to vaccine supply and medical advice, the countries are following similar but individual methods of deployment.
The plan published today sets out deployment plans for England.
In it, the government reiterated its pledge to offer a first dose of the vaccine to everyone in the four top priority groups by 15 February.
These top four groups comprise of residents in care homes for older adults, people aged 70 and over, frontline health and social care staff, and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
More than 80,000 health professionals had now been mobilised and were ready to be deployed to help in the delivery of the vaccination programme, stated the document.
As well as existing NHS staff, these include returners who had signed up to the NHS Bring Back Scheme, as well as clinicians working outside the NHS such as independent sector nurses.
More than 200,000 additional members of the public had expressed an interest in helping with the non-clinical elements of the rollout and would be contacted if and when they were needed, said the government.
To help with the operational challenges of the programme, the government has drawn on the expertise of the armed forces, including Army officer and nurse Major McGarry.
Major McGarry is quoted in the plan as saying: “As a nursing officer, I am fortunate to understand both clinical decision making and critical thinking, as well as how the military approach mission analysis, and military planning.
“Having a differing approach can be difficult to navigate when you have two differing organisations. I am able to think and converse in both NHS and military manners.”
The plan confirmed that the hospital hub sites would focus on the vaccination of health and social care workers, as well as the initial deployment of new vaccines.
“The continuing roll-out remains a huge undertaking”
It noted that a system was being launched to invite health and care professionals for vaccination and validate their eligibility “rapidly” onsite.
General practices and community pharmacies would vaccinate people who could not attend mass vaccination centres and co-ordinate visits to residential facilities, prisons, the homes of people with mobility problems, as well as outreach for vulnerable groups such as those who are homeless.
The plan noted that staff in primary care would play a “crucial role” in identifying and inviting for vaccination those who are extremely clinically vulnerable, by harnessing their “connections to their community, especially those with long term conditions”.
Meanwhile, the larger vaccination centres were described in the plan as a “new approach in the NHS” and would involve largescale venues such as sports stadiums, theatres and hotels being repurposed for mass vaccination, accessed by a national booking service.
One vaccination centre will open in each of the seven regions of England this week, with many more expected to be up and running by the end of January.
The first seven sites are:
- Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West)
- Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East)
- Excel Centre in London (London)
- The Centre for Life (North East and Yorkshire)
- Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West)
- Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England)
- Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands)
In a small number of rural areas, mobile vaccination centres would be put in place.
In the plan the government said it needed to ensure its vaccination programme was “inclusive and helps tackle inequalities” and as such, it had established a national equalities board to support it.
As part of this, a dedicated team has been set up to “support effective communication” with health and care staff from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, headed up by Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS medical director of primary care, and NHS chief people officer, Prerana Issar.
“Recognising our workforce are our biggest advocates and leaders within their own communities, this ensures all staff communications are relevant, accessible and specific and the view and priorities of BAME staff are part of the conversation,” stated the plan.
Commenting on the new plan, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock (pictured top) said: “Our UK Covid-19 vaccines delivery plan maps our route back to normality, but it does not mean we can be complacent and it is mission critical that everybody abides by the restrictions in the coming weeks.
“The next few months will present a significant opportunity to turn the tide of battle against Covid – I am looking forward to watching these plans bring more reassurance and hope back to people’s lives after a difficult year.”
The roll out of the vaccinations has coincided with a severe surge in Covid-19 cases, driven by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus.
Speaking to Nursing Times last week, Helen Donovan, professional lead for public health at the Royal College of Nursing, said nursing staff who had been involved in the programme to date should be given “huge credit for their professionalism at a time when nursing is under such unprecedented pressure”.
“The continuing roll-out remains a huge undertaking and there must be enough resource, including funding and clinical staff, to deliver the programme successfully and safely,” she added.
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