PCN Vaccination Hubs, set up in December 2020, are a major part of the successful roll-out of COVID vaccinations in Herefordshire.
We have five PCN centres in the county that were set up after painstaking and detailed planning by Herefordshire General Practice, including Taurus Healthcare, the CCG and NHS England. The planning was a fantastic example of collaboration and teamwork that has enabled the complicated process of handling and administering vaccinations to run smoothly and safely.
The largest of these Hubs, based at Leominster Sports Centre, serves the North and West PCN. On its busiest day, it administered over 1,100 COVID injections; on a typical day it’s around 900. It’s a testament to the planning skills of Charlotte Bounds (Site Manager), Dr Silvana McCaffrey (Clinical Lead and Clinical Director for North and West PCN), GIllian Pearson (the PCN Development Manager), coupled with the dedication and enthusiasm of the Practice Managers, Doctors, Nurses, Health Care Assistants and Admin staff of the North and West Practices, that the clinic has run and continues to run like a well-oiled machine.
A vital component of that machine is the volunteers. The people who happily turn up week in, week out, snow, rain or shine to greet and reassure visitors, show them where to park, sanitise seats and clipboards or act as runners for the medical teams.
Smiling behind their face-masks, the volunteers come from many different walks of life – but all seem motivated by the desire to ‘give something back’ to their local community.
For example, at the recent vaccination clinic we attended at Leominster Sports Centre, we met Suzanne Hughes who used to be a Home Economics teacher. There was Mike Kneen, a retired rector who also regularly volunteers as a driver on the Severn Valley Railway. Steve Ratcliffe, a retired Financial Director could be found helping patients to park. Meanwhile, Gill Kantolinna, a retired Mental Health Nurse, and Angela Lloyd, ex-Head of Holme Lacy College and now a passionate researcher of bees, have developed a friendship since volunteering at the clinic that they believe will continue throughout their lives.
To describe the atmosphere at the clinic as ‘carnival’ would be an over-statement, but volunteers report that many patients are delighted to be there for their vaccines. Some treat it as a day out – in fact, for many, it’s the first time they have been out for months. They might even have got dressed for the occasion in their best clothes. The happy atmosphere was certainly enhanced on the day we attended by the appearance of local hero, Mr Davies, who after receiving his second COVID dose provided an impromptu performance on his accordion!
Volunteer Mike Kneen says: “It’s the only social show in town” and many use their 15 minute after-jab waiting time to catch up with friends who they haven’t seen for ages in a safe and socially distanced way.
Other patients are more cautious and worried about being away from home. But the volunteers are always on hand to reassure and help them feel secure and safe.
Volunteers are just one part of the COVID vaccination hub jigsaw. They are members of the team that comprises paid and volunteer clinicians and administrators, drivers and managers. Each plays their important part. Together they create a greater whole.
See below for individual stories of the 'Vaccination Heroes' who help out at the North and West PCN Hub.