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Government pledges 50 large vaccination centres across England by end of January


By Awil Mohamoud
12 January 2021

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There will be 50 vaccination centres set up across England by the end of January, following yesterday’s launch of the first seven, according to the Government’s vaccine delivery plan.

The vaccine delivery plan – published yesterday (11 January) – said the growing network of vaccination sites will ‘rapidly expand’ over the coming weeks, and pledged that everyone in the country will live within 10 miles of a large vaccination centre by the end of January.

More vaccination centres are being set up at large venues across England – which have ‘higher throughput’ – including sports stadiums, theatres, and hotels, while a small number of rural areas will alternatively have a mobile unit, the report said.

This comes as seven large-scale vaccination centres opened across England yesterday (11 January) with NHS England announcing that more than 600,000 over 80s who live within a 45-minute car journey will be sent an invitation for an appointment.

The vaccine delivery plan also said the number of local vaccination sites, which includes those led by primary care networks (PCNs), will increase to around 1,200, and the number of hospital hub sites to 206 by the end of this month.

The report said the scale of this challenge is enormous, and equated it to launching a supermarket business in less than a month.

It added: ‘This mix will allow people in different age groups, communities and households to get a vaccine in a way that suits them and their needs.’

‘Confusion for elderly’

However, some individuals and organisations in primary care have raised concerns about the launch of the centres and ‘confusing letters’ inviting elderly patients in their area to attend.

A spokesperson for Birmingham LMC told Healthcare Leader: ‘We are concerned that the letters forwarded to patients do not make it clear that they can still opt out and be vaccinated by local GP-led services. This has therefore caused massive confusion amongst elderly patients, some of whom are vulnerable, disabled, frail and housebound.

‘They and their relatives are being led to believe that if they have not yet been vaccinated or received an appointment locally, they have no option but to be taken to one of these regional centres. The letters are badly timed and badly worded and have caused distress to a significant number of patients and their families.’

Healthcare Leader’s sister publication, Management in Practice, yesterday also reported on another GP organisation calling the process of invitations ‘really confusing for over 80s’, and a number of GPs who say they have been inundated with calls as a result.

In an email bulletin – sent to primary care staff on Sunday (10 January) – NHS England said ‘the system has been designed’ to ensure that invites for appointments at the seven new centres ‘should only go to patients who have not yet had their vaccine’ to ‘avoid duplication or confusion’.

But it added that the information on which patients have not been vaccinated is ‘drawn from GP records’, so it was therefore ‘important’ that practices ‘keep these as up to date as possible’.

‘Two million people each week’

The vaccine delivery plan said the aim is to have the capacity to vaccinate at least two million people each week by late January, and that everyone in the top four priority groups will have been offered the first dose by mid-February.

The Government also pledged to expand the vaccination programme so that all adults can be vaccinated ‘by the autumn’.

The document added: ‘The number of vaccination sites across the country will match expected vaccine supply. The capacity and mix of sites must also ensure safe, convenient and equitable access to vaccination in the order of JCVI cohort prioritisation. This requires the right clinical protocols, invitation and booking systems and clear public communication.’

The first seven vaccination centres are:

  • Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West)
    • Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East)
    • Excel Centre in London (London)
    • The Centre for Life (North East and Yorkshire)
    • Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West)
    • Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England)
    • Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands)

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