A GPs view: running vaccination centres

GP columnist Neil Paul gives an insight into how the COVID-19 vaccination centres are being run at a local level

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Digital Health

It has been quite a ride as different PCNs have adopted different vaccination approaches. Presumably, from a supply issue, it was decided to only send vaccines to one site per PCN. This site needed to be free 24/7 and so many PCNs have chosen civic centres, or similar, to work from rather than GP practices. In some areas, practices take turns running the clinic and, in others, including mine, we have setup a central vaccine team with key staff from all practices.

Outlining the technical job

It was a huge technical job to deliver laptops, fridges, fridge temperature loggers, barcode scanners and 4G backup routers in order to get these sites setup. I have to say that, locally, the interface between the CCG, CSU, primary care, council and others has been amazing – with a load of people really taking a ‘can-do‘ attitude.

We have had to cope with daily rule changes, and we’ve taken a Kaizen approach – improving our systems at every clinic. We introduced pre-printed QR codes, bar code scanners, and a range of other ideas – some of which we have got from other areas which have been so kind as to publish them on internet groups.

Standardising software

While these online groups are great, they could be more co-ordinated; some are on Facebook some WhatsApp some on NHS networks. We have just been through the NHS Office 365 upgrade and, while we are all using Teams to meet, no-one is that proficient in its apps or any of the other apps that exist in Office.

We could really do with standardising on one chat software, one location for shared information, one project management software and one rota management software. At one point we had some info in Dropbox, some in OneNote, some in Teams, a lot on WhatsApp; someone found a planner in Teams and someone started using Glasscubes, but no-one else could access it.

While there are lot of really good people in the NHS, there appears to be little if any co-ordination of what tools people use; far too many people use email for everything, with no version control, and no central repository, even though it now links to OneDrive. The NHS really needs to invest in awareness of what tools there are, and training people to use them.

Team effort

While I think our vaccine clinics have been a huge success, and while I’m happy to bask in the reflected glory as the clinical director, I know they have only happened because of the amazing team working for me. I’ve had great help from practice managers, advanced nurse practitioners and nurses, but we couldn’t have done it without the IT support – which has been brilliant – and, luckily, with PCN funds and COVID funds, I’ve been able to buy-in more than usual.

Personally, as a clinical director, moving forward from COVID, I think every PCN should be allowed to spend some of their additional roles‘ money on hiring IT trainers and IT project managers/ implementors; there is, perhaps, currently too much of an emphasis on clinical roles.

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