How do you get a precious vaccine to thousands of elderly and vulnerable people across Cambridgeshire as quickly as possible? This is the challenge faced by the GP-led Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and the response by everyone across the healthcare family has been heart-warming.
The COVID-19 vaccination programme is the biggest in the NHS history and is complicated by the fact that vaccines need to be kept at the correct temperature if they are to remain effective when they are used. This means they need to be transported in clinically validated cool boxes – but where do you get these in a hurry?
As the enormity of the task became apparent, Bourn Hall was one of the NHS partners that offered to help in anyway it could.
Dawn Course, Business Services Director at Bourn Hall, explains: “We provide specialist fertility services to the NHS which includes freezing of sperm and eggs for patients suffering with cancer and about to start chemotherapy.
“At our Cambridge site, we have well-trained nurses and doctors who had volunteered to help with frontline requirements.”
These offers of help were well received and quickly a request came back from the PCN programme manager: “We have a couple of sites going live with mass vaccs on Friday and we are struggling to source the cool boxes and gel packs to transport the vaccines to care homes. Would you have any that we could borrow please?”
The embryology department coordinates fertility preservation at Bourn Hall and so has good relations with its suppliers in this specialist area. Martyn Blayney and Donna Stock were on the case and a few calls later, Helen and Andrew of Cooper Genomics had arranged for 8 individual cool boxes to be couriered immediately for collection by the NHS response team.
The first group of GP practices, part of Ely North and South Primary Care Networks, began vaccinating local care home residents and staff in their own care homes this week (18/1/21) with rollout further over coming days. Dr Gary Howsam, Chair at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG says: “GPs have been working incredibly hard this winter, to see and treat patients, and to get ready for delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to care homes. General Practice is very experienced in delivering vaccinations, and I would urge everyone who is offered the vaccine to have it to help protect them from COVID-19.”
Dawn comments: “The NHS teams and local communities are doing an amazing job to coordinate and deliver such an ambitious vaccination programme and it makes me proud to see how everyone is pulling together to make it work. The spirit of cooperation is uplifting, and I am delighted that we were able to help in this way.”
NB. The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. Patients will be contacted and invited for vaccination – it’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.