The NHS in Sussex is on the hunt for thousands of potential vaccinators and volunteers to help protect millions of people from COVID-19 quickly when a safe and effective vaccine becomes available.
The country’s top clinicians have penned an open letter urging their fellow nurses, medics and other health professionals – including students and the recently retired – to help ensure the NHS can run large-scale vaccination clinics without impacting on other vital services.
The new campaign follows a landmark agreement between NHS leaders and England’s GPs to enlist the expertise of practice teams in every community across the country, with a similar deal with community pharmacists in the pipeline.
NHS staff are also expected to be drafted in from hospital, community and ambulance trusts where doing so will not affect patient care, but thousands more will be needed to ensure the health service can vaccinate millions of people quickly when supplies are available.
By bolstering its workforce the NHS will be able to offer the public potentially life-saving protection from coronavirus in a range of locations, focusing on the most at-risk groups first, at the same time as keeping A&Es, GP services and operations going.
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust is the lead provider for the vaccination programme across the county and will be responsible for co-ordinating and managing the programme, as well as some of the delivery alongside GPs. The first phase of work is the recruitment of trained and trainee vaccinators.
Donna Lamb, Chief Nurse at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Coronavirus has been the single biggest public health emergency in the health service’s history, and while my colleagues across the NHS have responded fantastically I know they grateful for the groundswell of support they’ve had from former colleagues, students and hundreds of thousands of volunteers.
“When we get a safe and effective vaccine that will be a real game-changer, and we’re determined to deliver it to eligible people as quickly as possible.
“But it’s also crucial that we keep vital services running at the same time, meaning we need a much wider group to once again lend a hand as vaccinators and volunteers.
“So if you want to play your part in this historic effort, please find out more today; your NHS needs you.”
Parliament recently changed the law to allow a wider group of people to undertake training to deliver vaccines.
This wider group includes many allied health professionals like paramedics and physios, pharmacy and dental professionals, and healthcare scientists – many of who currently work outside the NHS.
Others who have first aid qualifications and can complete appropriate training are also allowed to vaccinate under the temporary legal measures, and recruitment efforts will target those likely to have been furloughed or recently made redundant such as airline cabin crew and support staff from industries such as sports, events and security.
In all cases, appropriate training, supervision and PPE will be provided to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and patients.
A combination of primary care staff and other existing NHS vaccination teams will be the first to vaccinate those who the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decide should be the priority groups to get protected, which is expected to be care home residents and staff, followed by NHS and social care staff and people over 80.
As eligibility is widened out and community and large-scale vaccination centres are set up to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, more trained vaccinators will be required, as well as stewards, administrators and patient transport and liaison volunteers.
The NHS will also be working with St John Ambulance to establish a bank of thousands of volunteers, drawing from their own members as well as the hundreds of thousands of people who are already signed up to the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme, who have collectively completed more than a million tasks for vulnerable and isolated people.
Vaccinator and other paid roles will be offered on a flexible basis so that people can fit helping out around other work, caring and family responsibilities. Initial preference will be given to those who are able to commit a minimum of 16 hours per week.
All staff and volunteers will get training, assessment, supervision and PPE to ensure their safety and that of patients.
If you can help, apply here www.sussexcommunity.nhs.uk/work-with-us/covid19vaccine.htm
Other volunteering opportunities as part of the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme are available at https://nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/i-want-to-volunteers