As a nation, we are fortunate to have benefitted from the remarkable work of university scientists , working in partnership with private companies, in developing a vaccine that is being distributed around the world.
The role out of the vaccine across the UK, will undoubtedly present some challenges, including manufacturing in large volumes, transporting the vaccines, locating venues to carry out vaccinations and deploying sufficient staff to vaccinate the population.
Regionally and nationally we are supported by some excellent organisations in the National Health Service, Public Health England, Local Authority Public Health and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s).
Many of us will have become familiar with the faces of the Chief Medical Officer. Professor Chris Witty, Head of NHS, Sir Simon Stevens and the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance. They of course play a fundamental role in advising the Government with regard to the pandemic and of course liaise with their counterparts in the regions around the country.
They cannot do everything and look to the regional organisations and their leaders to develop effective strategies to ensure that over the coming months the vaccination programme is effectively delivered across Sefton.
NHS England expect the roll-out programme to be led by local Primary Care Networks. NHS England have invited General Practices to collaborate, nominating premises in their Primary Care Network grouping that will administer vaccines to their combined population. GP’s are expected to liaise with the local CCG’s, local authority, and local pharmacies to identify premises which can operate 7-days a week, which will be suitable for an unprecedented vaccination programme.
The NHS have suggested that very few GP surgeries or local pharmacies will be of suitable scale or capacity to handle such a vaccination programme and instead the process would necessitate larger buildings, possibly Health Centres, Leisure Centres or Stadia to carry out vaccinations at scale. In addition, GP’s and pharmacies are already stretched dealing with flu vaccinations as well as routine consultations and prescriptions.
Let us take a look at the organisations that support this programme in our locality and the personnel charged with this task.
Who within the local area is leading and implementing the strategy?
Is it Sefton Council who have a dual role of ensuring Health & Social Care for our residents, and for managing Public Health?
Sefton Council is headed by a Chief Executive, together with 6 Executive Directors and 9 Heads of Service plus a Director of Public Health/Head of Health & Wellbeing.
The Council’s website states that:
In line with the Government’s requirements and guidance, Sefton Council has worked with its partners to develop a COVID-19 Outbreak Management Plan.
Local authorities have a significant role to play in the identification and management of COVID-19 outbreaks. This Plan contains the measures needed to identify and contain any coronavirus outbreaks and protect the health of people who live and work in Sefton, in a way that is safe, protects our health and care systems, and supports the recovery of our economy.
Unfortunately, despite this over-arching responsibility, Sefton Council’s website offers no guidance on their role in the vaccination programme, identifying suitable venues or supporting the local population with information about the programme.
Is it the Sefton & Formby CCG, or the South Sefton CCG?
The CCG states that:
We work with a wide range of partners to plan and buy or ‘commission’ services. Our aim is to improve the health and healthcare of everyone living in south Sefton, spending money wisely and supporting doctors, nurses and other clinicians to do the best job they can.
To do this we need to understand all the information and medical evidence about current health and health services in south Sefton. This informs what more we need to do, so we can plan for health services that continue to meet the needs of local people in the future.
Their strapline is: HELP US – HELP YOU- KNOW WHAT TO DO
Our two local CCG’s comprise 2 separate Governing Bodies drawn from various backgrounds, with representatives from Sefton Council in attendance. Each CCG is headed up by a Chief Executive and management team.
Like Sefton Council, the CCG’s website offers no guidance to the community on the role, responsibility or timescale for the vaccination programme. However, in December they carried an advertisement for a range of appointments for staff to help manage and deliver the vaccination programme starting at the Totally Wicked Rugby Stadium in St Helens. Regrettably there was no indication of what venues would be offered in Sefton for the vaccination programme.
We can only assume that with organisations of this scale and staff resources, there is a dialogue taking place to implement the vaccination programme in Sefton. Unfortunately there is no indication on any locally-owned website to show which venues have been or will be selected in Sefton for vaccinations.
On 29th December 2020, NHS England produced a list of vaccination hubs:
This showed only 2 sites in Sefton – comprising Maghull Town Hall and Southport Centre for Health & Wellbeing. Meanwhile, by comparison Wirral’s CCG had earmarked 5 sites, including two of its leisure centres.
Our local communities are quite naturally anxious to know what plans are taking place locally and which of these prominent organisations is taking the lead on the programme.
Communication of facts is key to alleviating the concerns of the local public. Those in charge of Sefton Council and the CCG have a duty to inform the local residents, clearly and in a timely manner, using as many forms of communication as possible, recognising that not all our population have access to computers.
We eagerly await to hear from whoever is in charge.
January 5th 2021.