We asked Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart for an update on progress with the Covid-19 vaccination programme not just in Hastings and St Leonards but more widely in East Sussex as a whole, here’s what she had to say.
At present vaccinations are taking place in hospital hubs; GP led vaccination services; roving services to care homes and the housebound and in mass vaccination sites/pharmacy sites across the country.
Hospital hub vaccination services are up and running at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings and Eastbourne DGH. These hubs are currently vaccinating all NHS, health and social care workers who are working on the frontline.
GP-led vaccination services are where the majority of the current population are being offered their vaccinations. In Sussex there are 15 sites which have gone live to date. In the majority, each service is supported by a number of GP practices working together to vaccinate their collective population. Currently in East Sussex, six GP-led vaccination services have gone live and have all started to vaccinate patients over the age of 80.
Roving service – the vaccine is being taken into care homes and into people’s own homes if they cannot attend a vaccination site. This is being stepped up over the coming weeks as more supplies of the vaccines become available. GP surgeries are in the processing of contacting their housebound patients in order to schedule their vaccinations. All housebound patients over the age of 70 are due to be vaccinated by February 15th.
Mass vaccination centres and pharmacy sites: From January 25th, a new vaccination centre opened in Brighton to provide eligible people across Sussex greater opportunity to receive their vaccine. People who are in the top four priority groups currently eligible to receive their vaccination will be the first to be invited to get their vaccine at The Brighton Centre. They will book their appointment through a national booking system and will receive their vaccine by teams from Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, who are running the service.
The centre gives all those who are eligible another way to receive their vaccine, in addition to their local GP-led vaccination services. While the centre is based in Brighton and Hove, it is available for the wider population across Sussex and beyond.
Pharmacy-led sites have also opened in Hastings and Ticehurst. Patients in receipt of an NHS letter can choose to book into a pharmacy-led site through the national booking system. If the options for these do not appear, this will be because the slots have already been taken. More slots will open up when supplies of vaccine are confirmed. It would therefore be helpful to ring or log into the site at a different time if a pharmacy site is your preference.
The national NHS booking service will be writing to eligible people providing them all the details they need to book an appointment online or over the phone. Anyone receiving a letter from the national booking service can choose whether to book an appointment at a vaccination centre, or wait until they are contacted by their GP for an appointment if that would be more convenient.
Some areas have been more challenging and I am afraid that the more challenging areas to set up vaccination centres in the constituency have been Rural Rother, which includes Rye. I’ve been working with the Sussex Community NHS Foundation to provide a solution for Rural Rother.
The nearest site for Hastings residents is at The Hastings Centre, The Ridge. This vaccination centre is for patients at the following surgeries:-
- Beaconsfield Road Surgery
- Carisbrooke Surgery
- Churchwood Medical Practice
- Harold Road Surgery
- Hastings Old Town Surgery
- High Glades Medical Centre
- Priory Road Surgery
- Sedlescombe House
- South Saxon House Surgery
- The Station Practice
- Warrior Square Surgery
Laycock Pharmacy in Ore opened as a vaccination centre on January 28th.
Rural Rother (including Rye)
For numerous reasons, it was not possible to achieve a Primary Care Network solution in these parts therefore work has been taking place with the Sussex Community NHS Foundation and the local GP surgeries to agree a system to vaccinate their patients.
As a solution, rural Rother GP practices will be served by a vaccination hub at Etchingham village hall which began its first vaccinations on January 20th. More than 1,000 people have now received their Covid-19 vaccination at Etchingham.
The GP led vaccination service at Etchingham Village Hall is a partnership between Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust and the following GP practices:
- Fairfield Surgery
- Ferry Road Health Centre
- Martins Oak Surgery
- Northiam and Broad Oak Surgery
- Oldwood Surgery
- Rye Medical Centre
- Sedlescombe and Westfield Surgeries.
Patients from those GP practices who are over the age of 80 will be the first to receive the vaccination from this service.
I have had a number of constituents contact me from Rother Levels asking why they need to travel to Etchingham. The reason is that the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at very low temperatures, which is why large sites needed to be set up to deliver a significant number of vaccines every day. This is also why people who are being vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine need to travel to the hub to get the vaccine.
While it’s great news that Etchingham has started vaccinating I am still pushing for a solution in Rye and rural Rother. I am working closely with our local NHS on an almost daily basis about further locations in the area and how the vaccination can be offered from GP practices to make it as easy as possible for people to receive this vaccination. However, for this to be viable we need greater supplies of the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
I’ve asked the Vaccines Minister and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to consider a more simplified contract for GPs which is less onerous on opening hours and would see the GPs in this area take Astra Zeneca only. The Pfizer vaccines which have more challenging storage and transportation should be focussed at the bigger venues.
This is a fast-moving programme and there may be the option to provide the vaccine from more sites across our communities confirmed this week.
Travel to Vaccination Sites:
Please be aware that under government guidelines a family member or friend is permitted to take a person to their Covid-19 vaccine appointment, which is classed as an exemption as it is a ‘medical appointment’. Guidance on how to do this safely is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-forpassengers#private-cars-and-other-vehicles (scroll down to ‘Car sharing’). Information about community transport can be found on the East Sussex County Council website: https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/public/communitytransport/guide/a bout/. Other options are being explored for those who cannot call upon friends and family.
When going for a vaccination
People are asked not to arrive early for appointments. Arriving on time will help manage numbers at the site and help to keep everyone safe.
Always remember Hands, Face, Space. It will save lives and help the NHS.
Vaccination Types and Logistics Challenges
When the vaccine programme was developed, it was hoped that GP surgeries would inoculate their own patients. The Pfizer vaccine was the first vaccine to be approved. It has logistical challenges with its deployment and this has led to a number of GP surgeries, particularly in rural areas, being unable to participate. With the Astra Zeneca vaccine now approved, rural areas may now be better served as supplies arrive.
The following vaccines have now been approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency:
This was the first vaccine to be approved for use but it has logistical challenges (including transportation type and storage conditions of minus 70C). As a result of the challenges, GP surgeries have formed Primary Care Networks in order to provide one centre to deliver the vaccine. East Sussex has two areas where no such network has been able to source a centre. The Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust has worked in partnership with the local GPs to find premises.
This was signed off for use at the beginning of January. This vaccine can be stored at fridge-temperature levels and is therefore more effective for GP surgeries to use along the lines of the flu jab. It is hoped, as more supplies become available, that residents in Rural Rother (including Battle) and Heathfield, and its surrounds, will be able to receive it locally, via their GP surgery, and not be required to travel longer distances to receive a vaccine. Residential care settings are also better able to deliver this vaccine. As care home residences are the highest priority for the vaccination, this may have an impact on supplies to surgeries.
This has just been signed off as the latest vaccine. It requires storage of minus 20C (equivalent to a freezer). We await supplies in the UK and have an order in for 17 million.
Supplies and Logistical challenges
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Astra Zeneca (enough to inoculate 50 million people) and 40 million of the Pfizer vaccine. Combined, these will inoculate the entire population. There are other vaccine candidates which are being trialled and for which the UK has orders in.
Regardless of the orders, the vaccinations are in short supply and we need to be more upfront in saying this in national media. The Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust do not put supply orders in; they get what is made available and this could be either of the two vaccines. I have urgently lobbied the Vaccines Minister to ask for more Astra-Zeneca for the rural areas.
As of today, the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust have been told how much of the vaccine, and what type, will be delivered for this week. They have been assured that there are sufficient numbers to vaccinate all of the first four priority groups by 15 February.
Nationally, we are aiming to vaccinate 15 million people (the first 4 of the 9 current priority groups) by February 15th. This is an ambitious target given the supply requirements so I wish to personally caveat the end date. I’m doing all I can to ensure constituents are in the earlier part of this dateline.
In Sussex, 70,000 vaccinations have been delivered. As a comparison, Surrey have delivered 38,000 and the combined counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckingham have delivered 68,000. We expect each of the prioritisation groups to be delivered across East Sussex before the next cohort is vaccinated (so those in areas of the county where it is slower to start will have to catch up).
Priority Vaccination Groups and numbers
The Sussex Community NHS Foundation is working to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible but deploying a vaccine at this scale is unprecedented. Timing will be dependent to a large extent on manufacturing timescales and supply.
We have to be realistic that this enormous logistical task is going to take some time to get completely up and running, but good progress is already being made. The Government has set a target of vaccinating the four top priority groups (over 13 million people) by the middle of February, and I will continue to do all I can as the local MP to support the efforts of the CCG in ensuring we meet this target. This week the Prime Minister announced that 2.4 million people have been vaccinated. Across, Sussex, as of Saturday 9 January, 70,000 residents have been vaccinated. This compares to 38,000 in Surrey and 68,000 across the combined counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunity advises that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age. The order of priority groups for vaccination are as follows:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers.
- All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- All those 65 years of age and over
- All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions whichput them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over
It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19. The statistics on the number of people that have been vaccinated will be released daily online and I will be monitoring this data, and the progress being made, closely.
I know that work is continuing to set out future priorities and I will be studying this carefully. The committee is currently of the view that the key focus for the second phase of vaccination could be on further preventing hospitalisation. Vaccination of those at increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 due to their occupation could also be a priority in the next phase. This could include first responders, the military, those involved in the justice system, teachers, transport workers, and public servants essential to the pandemic response.
With parts of the constituency not moving as fast as the more urban parts of Sussex, I am reassured that the County will look to ensure that it delivers to the first four priority groups by 15 February before moving onto the next. This will be done by ensuring supply is aimed at the areas where the first four cohorts still need to be vaccinated.
I am keen that we receive more regular detail on numbers vaccinated in order to explain and keep the pressure up. This will be achieved via improved national and local data which is expected to be released this week and will allow for a county by county picture.
The Health Secretary has committed to ensure that everyone who needs it will be vaccinated by Autumn. This should give comfort to those who do not qualify within the 9 priority groups.
This is a mammoth task and I appreciate concern about the speed at which we are delivering. Please note that, whilst the UK delivers its 2.4 millionth vaccination, France had delivered under 50,000 vaccines to its citizens as of Friday 8 January. We had been in a position of delivering more of the vaccine than the EU nations put together. I’d rather be more ambitious and seek to catch up with Israel (which has the best global record).
Vaccination for Care Home staff and residents
Older people in care homes are one of the top priority groups for the Covid-19 vaccine due to their high risk from coronavirus.
There is a national target to have all care homes vaccinated by the end of January. In Sussex, we have one of the highest numbers of nursing and care homes per capita across the country and so this is a significant undertaking.
As of 26 January 26th more than 8,381 residents across a total of 454 care homes for older people (equating to 90 per cent of all of our care homes for older people in Sussex) have been vaccinated.
Vaccines in care homes are being delivered through the Sussex GP-led vaccination service, managed by the local Primary Care Networks (PCN). This will cover the majority of the care homes in Sussex, with the remainder being served by Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (SCFT) vaccination teams.
Unfortunately anyone with Covid-19 is unable to receive the vaccine while they are recovering. Some care homes are currently experiencing positive cases of Covid-19 among their residents and in these cases the home or those residents who are unwell have not been able to have their vaccination at this point. The vaccination teams have a clear schedule in place and will be revisiting them 28 days following the positive test.
NHS staff were the first to receive vaccinations in the hospital hubs. There are 70,000 NHS and care worker staff who need to receive the vaccine in East Sussex. Care Home staff are being vaccinated alongside residents are or via the hospital hubs. This will include agency, domiciliary and nursing staff.
Thank you to all of the NHS and Caring staff who are doing such an amazing job.
From 13 January care staff have been invited to book their appointments at hospital and further information can be found at this link:
With my other colleagues in East Sussex, I will have weekly calls with the Vaccines Minister and with our local CCG team. I am also holding weekly or regular calls with other stakeholders (such as the County and District Councils, Hospital Trust, Sussex Police and Ministers and their officials. I will update my website so do please keep a look out. I am so sorry that there is much concern and uncertainty. The vaccine programme is vital to deliver a solution. I will do everything I can to get this delivered across the 200 square miles of the constituency.
Further information on the roll-out of the local Covid-19 vaccination programme can be found at this link to the Sussex Health and Care Partnership
The CCG have set up a dedicated inbox for enquiries about the vaccination programme. If you have any queries please email them at firstname.lastname@example.org