At Lords Meadow Leisure Centre a military operation is underway. The sports hall, usually abuzz with fitness, badminton or martial arts sessions, has been transformed into a vaccination centre where local medical staff are working tirelessly to deliver jabs to all their patients. Our editor Rosemary Stephenson went along to help out and reports here on an impressive campaign involving the whole community.
What struck me most on entering the sports hall turned vaccination centre was how cheerful everyone was. From the friendly stewards greeting people on arrival, the nurses delivering the jabs and the people receiving them, everyone had a smile on their face.
People are walking in with optimism and hope said Dr Jo Harris, a GP at New Valley practice who has helped to coordinate the massive vaccination programme involving six surgeries across Mid Devon.
GPs are used to organising large scale vaccination programmes. They do this every year when they offer flu jabs to all their patients over 65. But they have never been asked to deliver jabs on such a massive scale.
The programme has taken months to plan and involved staff from six surgeries working closely together. It has also involved a huge number of volunteers, with members of the Rotary and Lions Clubs, town councillors and leisure centre staff giving up their time to support people attending the vaccination centre.
It has been a real community effort explained Michelle Freeburn, managing partner at Bow & North Tawton who has led the operation alongside Dr Harris. I can’t thank the volunteers enough.
So far five vaccination days have been organised at Lords Meadow, with up to 1000 people being vaccinated between 8am and 8pm on each day. I attended as a volunteer steward on the third day. Despite the huge numbers of people filing through the sports hall, some of them quite frail or in wheel chairs, the atmosphere was impressively calm and efficient.
It took me back some 60 years to my very first day in the RAF one man told me after receiving his jab. In the RAF we had to stand in silence in long lines in a huge hall being issued with everything from underpants to a short back-and-sides haircut. Both experiences were life changing, but in one you had the feeling of doors slamming shut behind you for the next two years of National Service, while in the sports hall there was a definite hope of doors opening.
On arrival at the centre people were greeted by stewards and directed to one of six tables, where staff from their own GP practice checked their details and logged their attendance. They then moved on to another table to receive their jab, again from a nurse from their practice. Finally they were directed to an observation area where they sat for 15 minutes, observed by paramedics, to be sure they had no immediate side effects. To ensure a smooth flow of people, with social distancing at all times, people left the centre by a different door and were guided back to the collection point in the car park. The whole process took no more than 20 minutes.
The entire process was carried out with machine like precision thanks to a very large number of volunteers said another satisfied customer.
Meanwhile, a team of vaccinators has been visiting local care homes and the housebound, to ensure everyone receives their jab.
The Crediton vaccination centre can only operate when vaccine supplies are available, which presents huge challenges for the team running it.
We don’t get much notice for when the next delivery of vaccine will come. It’s very challenging logistically as we have to send out invitations to hundreds of people at very short notice explained one organiser.
Invitations are sent by post, but if time is short, staff have also been phoning patients to ensure they’ve received their invite and encourage them to attend.
The six surgeries running the Crediton vaccination centre are Chiddenbrook, New Valley, Mid Devon Medical Practice, Wallingbrook Health Group, Bow & North Tawton, Cheriton Bishop & Teign Valley Surgery.
But it is not up to local GPs to decide who gets vaccinated. Vaccinations are being delivered across Devon in phases according to priority groups identified nationally by the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation.
There are 4 ways to help the NHS get the vaccine to as many local people as possible as quickly as possible:
- Don’t call your GP or local hospital about getting the vaccine – the NHS will contact you when it’s your turn. Blocking phone lines diverts staff time and slows down the vaccine rollout.
- Do attend your vaccination appointment when you are invited.
- Don’t turn up early for your appointment, which makes it harder for the centre to maintain social distancing. If you are early, wait in your car.
- Do follow government guidance and stay at home as much as possible.