Anthony Kimber provides an update and commentary on Covid-19 vaccinations at Etchingham which started this Wednesday, January 20 on a very wet and windy day.
While some are delighted to have their invitation to Covid-19 vaccination, many have done so with more than a little resignation because of the journey involved. Although I have heard “we have to go somewhere” more than once, there remains a groundswell of unease about the Etchingham plan. Just what lies behind it remains somewhat of a mystery, but it is brought into stark focus when viewed against the background of a map of Sussex and the location of vaccination “hubs”. There is a distinct gap in the eastern part of Rother.
During the last two weeks we have been posing questions to the East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which prioritises all clinical services across the county. Early on, we were fortunate to establish a contact, which has enabled us to secure some responses, but few full explanations. We have argued for better public communication.
Meetings with ministers
We remain in contact with Sally-Ann Hart MP, who is in contact with members of the CCG and has met with ministers to raise issues about the challenge of vaccinating in a rural area. Transport remains a big issue. She agrees that in the longer term it is important to get vaccine into pharmacists and GP surgeries, to ensure that the plan is both sustainable and manageable particularly for the large numbers of elderly.
The latest round of CCG feedback comes as the first 400 individuals received their vaccine on Day 1 at Etchingham. It was wild and wet for the three hour round trip from Rye town centre. Transport is the key issue. We have asked about any sort of strategic transport plan and have now been given an indication that one is being planned.
Meanwhile Rye Community Transport has become involved and gives a view in a separate piece. What is quite disturbing are the multiple reports of the relatives being summoned from across the South to take elderly family members from Rye and district to Etchingham. Not only does this make a nonsense of the lockdown rules but is hardly an example of sustainability.
Last week I suggested some reasons for Etchingham, mostly around the demands of handling the Pfizer vaccine and the proximity to the Sussex Community Foundation Trust (SCFT) which is handling the process. Despite the decision, it is repeatedly emphasised that at this stage the focus is to get up and running.
Why not Lydd or Hastings?
Of the many questions picked up by Rye Emergency Action Community Team (REACT), I should mention a couple that are raised time and time again: “How come when the NHS is national and rural East Sussex is being supported by organisations from elsewhere, am I not able to pop down the road to Lydd airport or my usual place in Hastings, and have my jab there?”.
I am sure that there is an answer around documentation and records, but this is unconfirmed. Importantly, what many want to hear is the answer to: “will there be other more local places later, perhaps even in pharmacies, when the Oxford vaccine becomes widely available?” The CCG hints that this might be the case in its recent statement below.
“We recognise that at the current time, with one site at Etchingham, some people have to travel further than others to get their vaccination depending on where they live in the area. We would like reassure everyone that there are discussions about further locations in the area and how the vaccination can be offered from GP practices. This is a fast moving programme and over the coming weeks, there may be the option to provide the vaccine from more sites across our communities.”
From our work so far, we are disappointed not to have been able to influence matters more favourably for the local level, but at least we have the means to raise issues. Points and questions are coming on an hourly basis. At the end there will be an interesting piece to be written about the decision making, probably the costs, sustainability issues and importantly, how to better handle succinct public communication!
The formal announcement
For those who have not seen it, here is the formal announcement of January 19, of the vaccination process for “Rural Rother” which includes Rye and district. It contains the clear message that individuals should not contact the NHS, it will contact them when the vaccination appointment is made. The important message for all is that the vaccine is vital to help mitigate the risks to everyone.
“The NHS is pleased to confirm Covid Vaccinations are starting this week at our vaccination centre at ETCHINGHAM VILLAGE HALL, PARSONAGE CROFT, ETCHINGHAM TN19 7BY
This GP led service will offer vaccine appointments to our registered patients in line with the national priority groups, starting with those who are over the age of 80.
WE WILL CONTACT YOU TO BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WHEN IT IS YOUR TURN! Please wait to be contacted AND DO NOT CALL OUR RECEPTION TEAMS as they are very busy running our usual surgeries and organising the Covid vaccination clinics.
This GP Led service covers all registered patients at: Fairfield Surgery, Ferry Road Health Centre, Martins Oak Surgery, Northiam and Broad Oak Surgery, Oldwood Surgery, Rye Medical Centre, and Sedlescombe and Westfield Surgeries.
Discussions about further locations
Our practice teams have been identifying their patients who are eligible at this stage and appointments will be booked in over the coming days. We recognise that at the current time, with one site at Etchingham, some people will have to travel further than others to get their vaccination depending on where they live in the local area.
We would like reassure everyone that there are discussions about further locations in the area and how the vaccination can be offered from GP practices. This is a fast moving programme and, over the coming weeks, there may be the option to provide the vaccine from more sites across our communities.
The location of the GP-led vaccination service does not affect the speed by which people living in the Rural Rother area will receive their vaccination. The timing for when people will be able to get their vaccination depends largely on the availability of the vaccine and the priority group they are in.
Guidance says you can get a lift
If anyone is concerned about how they will travel to get a vaccine during lockdown, it should be noted that, under the national guidance, it is permissible to receive a lift from someone or there are community transport providers offering this support in terms of transport for medical appointments.
You can find information about community and non-emergency transport on the East Sussex County Council website, or call the community hub on 01273 099956.
PEOPLE ARE ASKED NOT TO CONTACT YOUR GP PRACTICE, BUT TO WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE CONTACTED. YOU WILL BE CONTACTED AS SOON AS AN APPOINTMENT IS AVAILABLE FOR YOU.
We are also asking people not to turn up early for their appointments. Arriving on time will help us manage the number of people at the venue and help keep our patients and staff safe.
Our teams are also vaccinating at care homes across our local area. Many care homes have been visited and we expect to have completed all our homes by the end of the month.
The Covid-19 vaccination programme is the biggest immunisation programme ever undertaken by the NHS. As we roll out vaccines, we’d like to remind people of three things:
1. The NHS will contact you when it’s your turn, so please do not contact us beforehand.
2. Please act on your invite when it comes.
3. Remember Hands, Face, Space. It will save lives and help the NHS
Key messages for patients
• The vaccine will be given in order of priority to those at highest risk first.
• We will be in contact with you with information about where and when you will need to receive the vaccine.
• Please act on your invite when it comes, and make sure you attend your appointments when you arrange them.
• Please continue to abide by all the social distancing and hand hygiene guidance, which will still save lives.
PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THE SURGERY – WE WILL CONTACT YOU!”
Image Credits: NHS – CCG .