The “pioneering” new project in South Tyneside sees local pharmacists give up their weekends to vaccinate patients registered as housebound with their GP practice, in their own homes.
As part of the initiative, which launched last weekend (January 23) and uses the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, a team of 22 community pharmacists will visit around 1,500 housebound patients to immunise them against COVID-19 over the next four weekends.
Speaking to C+D today (January 25), following the first Saturday of vaccinations, Louise Lydon, a pharmacist in Jarrow, South Tyneside and secretary of Gateshead and South Tyneside local pharmaceutical committee (LPC), said it had been “absolutely brilliant”. “It’s definitely the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my pharmacy career,” she added.
Sami Hanna, another pharmacist involved in the project, and the Gateshead and South Tyneside LPC communications officer, said he thought the first weekend of vaccinations had been “brilliant and well-organised”, with “a real buzz about the place”. It felt like “a magnificent achievement”, he added.
More than 400 vaccinations were administered during the first day of the initiative, Ms Lydon confirmed to C+D.
Asked if pharmacists were concerned about overworking themselves, Ms Lydon said it is “not a problem for us to work to get these vulnerable people vaccinated”.
“We really, really want to see…the most vulnerable, the housebound” in the local population, people they “deal with day after day” receive the vaccination, she commented.
“It’s sustainable because its only for a short period of time; its three to four weekends,” she added. There was “overwhelming gratitude and hope” from patients at receiving the vaccine, Mr Hanna said.
“They were just really happy that this was happening and I felt quite privileged to be in a position to make this happen. People want that vaccine and they just want to get back to normality. It was quite an emotional day."
Local healthcare network working together
Ms Lydon explained that she suggested the idea for community pharmacy to get involved in off-site vaccinations at a meeting of the local flu board – which had since become a COVID-19 vaccine board and comprises LPC and primary care network (PCN) representatives, as well as “GP colleagues”. Within two weeks of the suggestion being made, it had become a full service.
The initiative sees local GP practices provide a list of housebound patients, who have been arranged into clusters to minimise travel for the pharmacists. Carers who find it difficult to leave the house because of their caring duties are also able to receive the vaccine through the project.
Pharmacists can be identified by an NHS ID and are already registered vaccinators with the local PCN vaccination hub, which means they are are covered by NHS insurance, Ms Lydon said.
Dr Anji Curry, a GP in South Shields, described the project as a “unique approach” to COVID-19 vaccinations.