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We know many of you are, understandably, asking about the 2023 autumn Covid booster campaign. Park Road Surgery, with the other two practices in our PCN, opted in to the programme at the start of September on the understanding that we would get a frontloaded, early vaccine delivery to allow us to coadminister flu and covid vaccines. Not only has that delivery not arrived, there is no clear indication as to when or whether we will actually get vaccine. This means that, to our enormous frustration, we have stood down the staff who we had ready to offer Covid vaccines at our flu clinic this Saturday.
We have written to the SWL vaccine lead as below expressing our anger and disappointment at the abysmal organisation of vaccine delivery despite this being explicitly flagged both locally and nationally, and we will update you if and when we receive vaccine.
I am writing to you in your role as SWL vaccine lead to express the views of my PCN at the way this programme has been handled, and in particular with the chaotic and unreasonable vaccine supply. You may recall I wrote to you back in May about the poor handling of the Spring booster campaign, and things have worsened even since then.
You will be familiar with the background, whereby practices across the country voted with their feet when the funding was cut by opting out of the programme. Like many other GPs, we attended the hastily-convened NHS England meeting where they claimed that the rollback of that funding change was because of the clinical urgency of delivering the vaccination programme in light of new data on evolving variants.
At that meeting, two questions were asked of NHS England in particular in relation to the programme. First, will the IT work properly, and second, can you guarantee we’ll get supplies in good time. We received assurances from the people running the webinar that both would happen, as they should given the apparent clinical urgency of the programme.
Not only have they not happened, but delivery has been a shambles. First, we received notification that our vaccine was planned for delivery to the Greenwood Centre, a community centre which we stopped using over a year ago and since when we’ve had deliveries to Hampton Medical Centre. Having fixed that inexplicable error, we had a delivery listed on Foundry for last Friday, 08/09/2023, and with that in mind all three practices made arrangements to coadminister Covid vaccine at booked flu clinics this week. My colleagues at Hampton were at the practice all day – no vaccine arrived. Our lead practice contacted the local vaccine team, who were told at 16:54 that day that none of the deliveries scheduled were happening. Nothing came on Saturday either.
Then, on Monday, the local vaccine team e-mailed suggesting “those deliveries that we thought were due on Friday were not failed deliveries but were incorrectly showing on Foundry”. That’s fundamentally wrong – if you’ve put data up on a national system, and practices have then made arrangements to receive vaccine on that day, it’s a failed delivery and should be acknowledged, and apologised-for, as such.
Yesterday, we were offered delivery at an unspecified time on either Saturday or Monday. We’re giving the flu vaccine to about 10% of our total PCN population, so probably a third of our Covid population, on the Saturday, and because we can’t be guaranteed a delivery time we have stood down the teams we had planned to come in and administer vaccine.
Then this morning we’ve had another delivery notification, for Friday, to the Greenwood Centre again despite having already corrected this with the delivery service.
This is chaos. The upshot of having no idea whether we’ll get vaccine is that we will have to ask thousands of people to come back for a second vaccine, on a second occasion, with all the increased admin hassle for them and for us, with the increased risk of exposure at the vaccination site, and of infection and serious illness while they aren’t vaccinated. This incompetent vaccine supply is putting our most vulnerable patients at risk, plain and simple.
I am putting our disgust in writing to put on record that these failings are making it impossible for us to deliver for our patients, and to highlight the gulf between NHS England’s words and actions in managing the programme. Our work in managing to deliver a vital clinical service within this sort of dishonest, dysfunctional system is being taken for granted, and it’s not good enough.