NHS leaders in Gateshead have praised the positive spirit of local people as the borough’s vaccine effort moves on to a new stage. The programme, which started in December, has now reached more than 45,000 people, with everyone in the first four priority groups having been contacted to receive their first dose.
Dr Georgina Butler, a GP in Felling and clinical director at NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), works at a local vaccine hub in Felling. “I’ve been so impressed with people’s positive spirit,” she said. “There’s such a strong team atmosphere among the practices, council, community groups and volunteers including retired doctors and nurses.
“With local practices coming together and familiar faces returning, there’s a real community feel to it. Most patients see someone they know when they get their jab – we’ve even had people thrilled to see their old doctor from ten or twenty years ago.
“The council has pulled out all the stops to help us – they put in new flooring within days to make the building safe for clinical use. The leisure centres are closed, so leisure staff are working as marshals, helping things run smoothly.
“Felling Library is usually based here, but the volunteers offered to make room for the vaccine effort. Local practices and leisure centres helped out with some essential equipment. Some local taxi firms are offering discounts to help people get here.
“It’s all about community pulling together and it’s a great place to work because of that spirit. People are excited and relieved to get their vaccine, and they’ll do everything they can to help things go smoothly. People who have not been out of the house for months will make sure they’re here on time because they know this is how we can move forward as a country.”
Felling residents Dorothy and John Firth were among those to get the jab at the Felling hub. Dorothy, 80, said: “We were overjoyed when we were able to be vaccinated at our local hub as I had been feeling very nervous. The familiar faces and friendly atmosphere put me straight at ease. The process was so well organised and precise, it was just super. It has brought us both peace of mind and great hope for the future – we are two happy pensioners and our great thanks goes to everyone who is working so hard.”
Gateshead has GP-led vaccine centres at Blaydon, Birtley, Felling, the Bede Centre and Rawling Road practice, with support from CBC Health (the Gateshead GPs’ federation). A vaccine hub is operating at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where community nursing teams have worked to reach people who are housebound. Some residents will also receive invites from the mass vaccination centres at the Centre for Life or the Nightingale Hospital.
Dr Steve Kirk, a Whickham GP and director of CBC Health, said: “Our success is down to fantastic teamwork and all the health and care organisations working together. This programme has been delivered by practices, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and community nursing staff, supported by public health, our Clinical Commissioning Group, the council and the voluntary organisations. Our Federation has helped coordinate the various organisations and brought back many retired clinicians to work in the vaccination programme. We are delighted it is proving so successful.”
Joanne Baxter, chief operating officer at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that we are all pulling together to help protect people in Gateshead. In the last two weeks, our community teams have vaccinated over 1,800 patients who are housebound, which is an amazing achievement. They are going above and beyond to make sure people who are housebound get their vaccine, whatever the weather.
“We have also vaccinated over 9,000 health and social care staff from Gateshead at the QE hub. This is the start of the recovery for many.”
Councillor Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, praised the progress being made with rollout of the vaccine: “We know how challenging the pandemic has been for local residents, but with the vaccination programme exceeding all expectations there is cause for optimism. Gateshead Council will continue to do all we can to support the extraordinary efforts being made by our NHS colleagues.”
The NHS will now focus on people over 65, and those aged 16-65 who are in at-risk groups – before returning to the first four cohorts for their second doses.
If you are over 70 and haven’t yet been invited, or you have previously received a letter saying you are at high risk of Covid-19 (clinically extremely vulnerable), you can call 119 or register online to book your jab.
Front line health and social care workers should have been offered vaccination appointments via their employer – if you are employed, please check with your manager. Front line health and social care workers who are self-employed (such as personal assistants, chiropodists or physios can register for a vaccination.
Further information, and answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine, are available at www.newcastlegatesheadccg.nhs.uk.