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I am sitting in Yeovil Community Church, contemplating the last 30 days. I am not here for the usual reasons one might visit a church. Rather, the church is the vaccination site for Yeovil Primary Care Network, and I’m here to help immunise the local population.
As a nurse clinical director of a primary care network (PCN), this month, and indeed the last year, has been a rollercoaster of a journey, and that rollercoaster continues as we take on the vital work of vaccinating the most vulnerable in our community.
“It’s vital to build positive relationships, engender trust and be the person that makes people feel safe”
I am immensely proud to be a nurse, and the experiences throughout my career have come to the fore in recent weeks. For me, leadership is about empowering, enabling, facilitating, compassion, organisation, delegation and understanding.
It’s vital to build positive relationships, engender trust and be the person that makes people feel safe. These are all tenets of nursing, all skills that we, as nurses, began to use from the very first person we cared for.
The leadership skills I’ve gained as a nurse have allowed me to manage the uncertainty about vaccine deliveries; the second dose questions; the actual act of vaccinating; and the constant rumours that have been swirling since the vaccination programme was announced.
Like all PCNs, the vaccination programme started here in Yeovil with an extraordinary explosion of activity. For us, it is now about settling into a sort of “battle rhythm”, building resilience through collaborative practice working.
Throughout the year, we used our PCN funding to build a central clinical team, and this team is taking the bulk of the vaccination burden, planning, organising, and allowing practices to carry on their day-to-day work.
On our first run, we vaccinated our designated number of over-80s and heathcare workers; on the second day, because of changes to protocol, we were able to use the sixth dose (that is, the extra dose that may be extracted from vials intended to give five) and increase the numbers.
This meant bringing in two minibuses of one care home’s residents and staff, and it brought real pleasure to be able to offer immunisation to them, reigniting some joy for the staff who work in our PCN.
During the Christmas break, we received additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which allowed us to make inroads into vaccinating more care home residents and staff. This proceeded smoothly, using the central PCN team (GP, pharmacist, clinical lead, care co-ordinators, and volunteer nurses).
During the week of 4 January, as we were a wave 1 site, we began giving the second dose, as well as continuing to vaccinate care homes. We have been able to use the sixth dose as a first dose for care workers, especially care home staff.
There have been some difficulties – we have homes where there are outbreaks of coronavirus, and this has had a huge impact on the ability to vaccinate – but between the PCN and the district hospital, we are working through the 836 care home staff in Yeovil.
We will be receiving mutual aid from the hospital and will be providing first doses for over-80s using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for care homes, in the coming days. We also hope we will receive further doses of this vaccine, so that we can begin immunising the housebound.
“We do need greater consistency, clarity and certainty over doses and deliveries”
While our rollout has so far been fairly smooth, we also know there’s been uncertainty and confusion, especially with rapidly changing guidance and protocols.
As we’ve heard from other members of the NHS Confederation and its PCN Network, while some have had similar experiences to those in Yeovil, others report difficulties caused by last-minute cancellations or postponements of deliveries. We do need greater consistency, clarity and certainty over doses and deliveries.
In the meantime, I look forward to the day when we can say all those who want the vaccine have been given it.
Kat Dalby-Welsh is clinical director of Yeovil Primary Care Network and member of the PCN Network board (part of the NHS Confederation)