Driving the biggest vaccination programme in the UK’s history

The NHS is currently delivering the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination programme - the biggest vaccination programme in the UK's history. Data has already identified those who are most vulnerable, which in turn has helped prioritise groups of people for vaccination. It is helping to coordinate distribution, reducing waste. And it is enabling reporting on uptake of the vaccine so that we can understand the impact it is having on case numbers and hospital admissions in different areas and for different groups in society.

Researchers are also now able to directly request access to national vaccine datasets enabling vital COVID-19 research securely and ethically through the HDR Innovation Gateway. Research is crucial to understanding the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines on different population groups, their impact on disease transmission and how vaccines will affect the course of the pandemic.

Nurses, GPs and other primary care staff are at the forefront of the vaccination program. Not only does that put trusted, local professionals, who are experienced with seasonal flu vaccinations, in charge, but it has also allowed these clinicians to use their local data and intelligence to both target the people most at risk in their communities. Dozens of vaccination centres have been set up in sports stadiums, churches, mosques, even a familiar open-air museum in the Midlands.

Helen Crowther, registered nurse and Clinical Nurse Advisor for NHSX

“More than 20 million people have been vaccinated since we saw the news of Margaret Keenan, a 90 year old lady from Coventry, getting the first jab just a few months ago (as of 28 February 2021). I am so grateful to have been involved in this incredible feat, as part of the primary care team in North Tyneside and Wakefield.

“In general practice we know our patients. We hold information on who is vulnerable, who is housebound, and for many their ethnicity too. This kind of local intelligence might not map directly to a code entered in a record. We are also already experienced with the large seasonal flu vaccination programme, which changes each year. All of this local knowledge and experience, supplementing national data and guidance, allows us to target our approach and get it right for our patients.

“Not only is it great to be part of the response, but it has been a crash course in primary care network set-up; local challenges and digital systems that help multiple GP practices and community services to work together. By working together as a network, we are able to:

  • centralise the recall of patients for their second vaccination
  • have better buying power
  • share and redistribute essential resources such as PPE
  • provide flexibility for patients and staff
  • reduce waste and duplication

“Technology is helping too. It’s still standard practice across lots of primary care services to rely on spreadsheets for things like planning off duty work. Whilst working on the vaccination programme Wakefield PCN have implemented E-Rota. How did this help? It’s been snowing a lot recently and that has meant a number of people have had to cancel a shift due to the weather. You get a notification on the app of available shifts, opt in if it works for you, and get notification to say they have been filled. Quick, easy, accessible. Perfect example of digital supporting new ways of working.

“On top of all these benefits there have been those wonderful heart-warming moments like when we sang happy birthday to a 95 year old man, after his vaccination, who hadn’t left his house for over a year. He cried, his daughter cried, everyone cried. Even with the pace that we are working at, the opportunity to hear human stories is the reason why our roles are so important.”