Covid vaccinations progressing


More than a thousand people had received their Covid-19 vaccination by earlier this week at the new local vaccination service in Etchingham. The daily rate is around 500. The NHS began the programme at Etchingham Village Hall (Parsonage Croft, Etchingham, TN19 7BY) on Wednesday, January 20.

The service has been commissioned by the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) through a partnership between Sussex Community [NHS] Foundation Trust (SCFT) and the GP practices in Rye at Ferry Road and the Rye Hill Medical Centre, Burwash, Battle, Northiam, Broad Oak, Robertsbridge/Battle Health Centre, Sedlescombe and Westfield Surgeries.

The Etchingham site is offering vaccination appointments to either permanent or temporary registered patients at GP practices in line with the national priority groups, starting with those who are over the age of 80. GP practices have been identifying their patients who are eligible, then sending out appointments by text, phone, email or letter – which some have refused.

The NHS CCG recognises that people in Rye and District will have to travel further than others to get their vaccination. We have reminded staff there of the prime minister’s 10 mile access to vax promise of January 7. They acknowledge that at present many in Eastern Rother have to travel twice that distance.

No choice yet about where to go

Sally Ann Hart MP, the mayor and REACT remain in close touch with the CCG and continue to feedback issues and to discuss future options. For their part, the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has advised that the situation is rapidly changing and “there may be an opportunity to set up more sites in the community soon.”

However, until then, unless you are in a special category such as an NHS worker, Etchingham is the place to go. We have also learnt of a new national booking scheme for vaccinations, but as yet details are not available.

Patients with appointments are urged to take up the offer when it arrives and sort out transport as best they can. It is hoped that a strategic transport plan will be advised shortly. Rail is a possibility, via Hastings, but Etchingham Station is around a mile from the Etchingham Village Hall, so a brisk walk is necessary.

[Editor’s note: And a long wait may be necessary at Hastings station as you will have to change there]

See poster at top

In addition to self drive, please note the guidance in poster at top,  there are lots of options. The latest government guidelines indicate that a family member or friend is permitted to take a person to their Covid-19 vaccine appointment, which is classed as an exemption as it is a ‘medical appointment’. Guidance to reduce risk is repeated in the poster.

The NHS emphasises that to get a Covid-19 vaccination is one of the best defences against the virus. It should help reduce the rates of serious illness, reduce pressure on our NHS and social care services, and, above all, save lives.

The NHS CCG reminds people that the Covid-19 vaccination programme is the biggest immunisation programme ever undertaken by the NHS. As it is rolled out, people are reminded that:

  • The NHS will contact people when it’s their turn. Please do not ask your GP practice about vaccinations but wait until you are contacted.
  • People will be contacted as soon as an appointment is available. Surgeries are as busy as usual looking after people, and calls about vaccinations are preventing them from doing this.
  • Please act on your invitation when it comes.

The Etchingham Centre provides some additional advice for those travelling for vaccination:

  • People are asked not to arrive early for appointments. Arriving on time will help manage numbers at the site and help to keep everyone safe.
  • Always remember:  Post vaccination advice is still being fully developed, but some advice is here.

Image Credits: Rye Mutual Aid .

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  1. Reviewed a series of issues on Thursday through contacts with the NHS Clinical Commissing Group: vax for those in sheltered accommodation and the housebound, transport issues and the possibility of getting vaccinations into Rye. No answers yet but still working.

  2. Not arriving early for vaccination appointments at Etchingham may be easier said than done. People of course do not wish to arrive late but car drivers should be aware that the access road (Parsonage Croft) is fairly narrow with parked cars on one side, that there may be a short queue of cars waiting to be directed into the car park as spaces become available and that time must also be factored in for collecting wheelchairs which may be necessary to transport your passenger into the centre. These were in short supply on Day 1 when I took my partner’s very elderly mother for her jab. Also adjacent to the Hall is the School and we were there at school finishing time which created a lot of extra traffic in spite of reduced numbers of children actually at school. For the able bodied I would certainly recommend train and walk the one mile from Etchingham Station. This will allow you to by-pass the cars and walk into the centre bang on time. It is an important day when you receive your jab – make a day of it with an invigorating walk. You could even come by car and park at Etchingham Station which at present is pretty empty of cars as there are fewer commuters.

  3. There are early reports of people receiving NHS letters under the new national booking system ( mentioned above). Apparently the letter invites recipients to log on or telephone for an appointment and offers have been made at pharmacists in New Romney and Ore ( new vax centres). Would be interested to hear of others receiving such letters.

    • My 89 year old mother declined the journey to Etchingham and received a letter this week inviting her to book at a choice of locations. I have booked her in at Ore and Ticehurst (just as far as Etchingham but we feel the principle has nonetheless been upheld!).
      After 35 years as a community health worker in Rye and the surrounding areas, it came as no surprise to me that Rye was ‘snubbed’ as it has been par for the course over all that time. My sympathy is with the residents of Camber in particular.

  4. In response to Dr Kimber’s request. We received a call from our Ferry Road Practice yesterday, 28th, for our appointment at Etchingham on Friday 29th, which we accepted. Then our post arrived with one of these NHS letters offering an appointment by phone or on-line. However the letter does give you the option of waiting for the GP system or booking on line. More to the point, you would not want to be directed to the big centre in Brighton!

  5. On arriving on time: We were told to go away for half an hour; on returning it coincided with the arrival of two ‘biddy busses’ and a queue quickly built up, luckily in good weather.
    I was surprised that there was no attempt to sort out those with current appointments from those early or late- it was ‘first come first served.’
    Generally we were impressed with the efficiency, good humour and helpfulness of the NHS staff and volunteers.
    It’s a pity this GP based system wasn’t used right from the start, nearly a year ago.

  6. I received my invitation by phone today (Friday) from Rye Medical Centre but had been vaccinated yesterday at the pharmacy in Ore Village after going on to the NHS website on Monday and following the links. If a small pharmacy in Ore can run an efficient vaccination operation in limited space just what have the CCG and our local GPs been playing at?

    Peter Jones CBE

  7. Grateful for various reports of people’s vax experiences I will feed back to the CCG.

    In response to our calls for more local vax, more coming in hourly from the NHS.
    Latest guidance this morning is:

    1. You may receive a letter offering you an appointment at a vaccination centre up to 60 miles ( often Brighton Centre) from where you live (and this may be across “borders”) This might also be the new Ore ( Laycocks) pharmacy or in Kent.

    2. You do not need to take up the offer if you would prefer to book locally

    3. If you want to book locally, please wait for communication from your designated vaccination site ( Etchingham) Please do not call your GP .

    More details as we get it.

    • Peter Jones CBE. I can’t imagine why you seem dissatisfied with the service you are being offered and that the National NHS booking system does not receive updates from your GP practice about your appointments. What indeed has the CCG and local GPs been playing at? Its terrible that you haven’t been given a better service, where you wanted it and when. Attitude of entitlement doesn’t get near. Absolutely tragic.

  8. All looking promising for vax more local to Rye. Waiting to hear next stage developments

    Meanwhile advice for those driving to Etchingham, if you arrive early then wait at Station before driving the last mile to the Centre

  9. If you get offered an appointment 40 miles away and don’t want it, can I have it?
    Obviously I’m joking but 40 miles seems a small price to pay for a life saving vaccination, if of course you’re able to make the journey.
    There’s been a lot of bad press about Etchingham and how far away it is but how many think nothing of travelling to Eastbourne, Ashford etc for a days shopping.
    Hopefully my day will come soon, hopefully we’ll all be able to spend the summer doing the things we all miss.

  10. I’d like to update you all on how things are going with getting people to Etchingham. By the end of today (Saturday) RDCT will have taken 166 people on 38 trips since the centre opened on the 20th, 11 days ago. I’m rather saddened by Mr McGrath’s referring to our buses as ‘biddy buses’ – unpleasant and patronising. Please bear in mind that this operation went from zero to hero in a matter of days and we are all still fine tuning systems and coping with glitches (as occurred on Thursday) as we go. One of my biggest problems is people’s inability to remember their own phone number correctly and we have asked the surgeries to get people to write it down on the same bit of paper where they make a note of the appointment date and time (and to check it with them) so that if they ring to book transport they can give it correctly. The worst case we’ve had was when someone left an old phone number – it took quite a time to track down their current one which they then insisted was not right! If you phone us to book transport there is no need to tell me that you have to go to Etchingham – I know! Just say: my phone number is ………, my vaccination appointment is on …… at ………(time), my name is …….. That enables me to book you for the correct date and to get back to you. If you’re leaving a message I’m not asking for your address as it’s no help to hear that if you turn in down the road on the left it’s the house with the scruffy front door – I will sort that out when I speak to you! We have accommodated every request for transport and we are finding that the trip is giving people a real boost – you see so much more from the buses and if you’ve been stuck at home for 10 months it’s such a joy to see some lovely countryside and some new people. For those who are driving we have sorted a route from Rye via the B2089, B2244, A21 and A265 which is easy to follow and takes 30-35 minutes on average. For the villages outside Rye add on the time it takes to get into Rye. Right, I’m off to take the first of today’s groups.

    • Fantastic job Pat – we parked behind you and felt really proud to see the Rye and District Community Transport logo on your bus. It’s marvellous that you’ve organised an excellent shuttle service, bussing our community members to their life saving vaccine and back again. You are all hero’s, you and all the other drivers. Thanks for your sterling work.

  11. Dear Mags, I am 75 and reasonably fit. My concern has been for those older and frailer than me for whom a 40 mile round trip taking several hours would be a real strain. The Government wants access to vaccination within 10 miles of people’s homes and, despite months to plan the CCG and local GPs have failed to produce a solution with just a couple of weeks to go to the February 15th deadline for vaccination of older groups. This is a failure of leadership and the sort of get-up-and-go shown by the organisers at Etchingham.

    • Dear Peter, and also Reggie,
      RDCT has taken lots of those high 80s, several in their 90s and one 101 year old, ALL of whom loved the trip and relished the opportunity to see the world again (although not so wonderful in rain like today). It is a real strain if you yourself have the responsibility of getting the journey right but that’s all removed when you come with us.

      • You are doing a brilliant job Pat and team. You do us all proud. I am sure it would be an utter privilege to be on your bus and take a step towards freedom, into the light, after all these months. We arent there yet but you folk are literally driving us towards a better future. Thank you.

  12. One must agree with Peter Jones, we have so many empty buildings in Rye at the present that could be used as vaccination hubs, especially when we are advised not to travel far.It may keep Pat Hughes and her team happy tooing and throwing to Etchingham, but this is costing unnecessary money, and if Ore can have a vaccination hub why not Rye.

  13. Dear Pat Hughes,

    I am a great admirer of you and the Community Transport team and in no way seek to belittle your efforts. Having lead East Sussex County Council for twelve years to 2013 and transformed it from a failing local authority to being rated one of the best in the country, I have some experience of just what great services our public sector can deliver. That was achieved by team effort and clear leadership all round, something I am failing to see from the CCG and local doctors with a few honourable exceptions. These are exceptional times and demand the best of all involved, our community needs everyone to match you and your team.

  14. Well we’ve taken another 3 groups to Etchingham today and I’ve now sorted tomorrow’s routes and pick ups. Everyone that we have taken has been amazed at the scale of the vaccination operation at Etchingham – they’re working to vaccinate 400 people EVERY DAY. This requires a lot of space – there are 3 areas that you progress through, firstly to be booked in and give authorisation, also discuss any issues you may have; secondly the actual vaccination; thirdly the post-vaccination area – if you have the Pfizer vaccine you need to stay for 15 minutes in case of adverse reactions BUT if there are any medical issues for those getting the Astra Zeneca vaccine they too need to stay for 15 minutes. There needs to be sufficient space to ensure that those moving from one area to another (including staff) can be properly distanced (it would be terrible to create an infection ‘hotspot’ – this is why cathedrals are good!) and there is the whole ‘back office’ part of the operation – storage and preparation of the vaccine, somewhere for the administrators to work and somewhere for facilities for all those working there. The other big requirement is for staff to carry out all this – all the 7 surgeries involved with Etchingham send people up there each day – Dr Kondigari was there on Saturday and we saw Allison (from Ferry Road) there today and lots of those working there are from further afield. In order to maximise the speed and numbers of vaccinations it was decided to operate initially from these hubs and having been at Etchingham for 12 days, I can say that it has worked well for us in Rye, we are already taking the 75-79 years old, many of whom did not expect to be done so soon. I believe that as things progress it may well be that we have a vaccination centre here in Rye, but the key thing is that we are getting vaccinated now and quickly. I am a huge fan of the Hub on Rye Hill, but I don’t actually think that there is anywhere in Rye that could handle this scale of operation. I deplore the view (that was expressed to me) that having people happy to go to Etchingham would probably erode the case for the CCG to provide Oxford vaccine more locally. Also, I am so sad that Q King felt that it was more important to uphold the ‘principle’ of not going to Etchingham by booking the 89 year old in at Ore and Ticehurst – we would have looked after the lady with care and consideration, she might well have enjoyed the trip and, most importantly, she would have already been vaccinated! Many of those we have taken so far were children in the 2nd world war and have recounted how important it was that the community pulled together to help them get through. I believe that we have seen a lot of that during this pandemic – look at how amazingly Rye Mutual Aid got up and running at the very beginning and think how much the Rye Food Bank is doing every single week to help and support some of the most vulnerable. Please don’t ever forget, our community is you and me, and we need to pull together all the time to get through this. Don’t diss Etchingham – it’s there to give us all a fighting chance.

  15. Drove to Etchingham for our jabs couldn’t fault it at all 10/10 arrived 4 minutes before our slotted appointment, the driver of the car in front was much to early and was told to go away for a time told them a car park at the rail station and come back at his appointed time. We was guided to a parking slot, queued for about 5 minutes.our name was crossed of the list
    Sat down again for a few more minutes , a lady at a computer gave us a slip of paper with our names on it went into the main hall sat down a nurse injected me a dose of Pfizer vaccine, went into a partitioned room waited 15 minutes then out and home.the whole appointment time was about 45 minutes, absolutely brilliant treated like private patients
    Not only that it was good to get out for a while.


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