Sir David Sloman visits the Waldron Health Centre

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Sir David Sloman, NHS regional director for London visited the Waldron Health Centre in Lewisham on 19 February to meet staff, volunteers and patients at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic, one of South East London Integrated Care Partnership’s five GP led vaccination sites in Lewisham.

The Waldron Health Centre is located in New Cross and is home to three GP practices as well as a range of other community health services. It is serviced by two Lewisham Primary Care Networks (PCNs); North Lewisham and Lewisham Alliance which are working together to deliver the vaccine in a diverse area where levels of vaccine uptake are not high. Their work is supported through multidisciplinary working and dedicated staff and volunteers.

Kate Moriarty Baker, Chief Nurse, NHS South East London CCG said: “It was very impressive to see the fantastic multidisciplinary team working at the Waldron.  There was a real sense of how both the employed workforce and volunteers had come together with the collective aim of delivering the vaccination programme to the populations of the PCN. Clearly everyone knows their role and contribution to the patient vaccination journey and are approaching this with great enthusiasm and dedication. 

“There is significant vaccine hesitancy within the BAME community in Lewisham. There are really positive examples of both clinicians and care coordinators proactively reaching out to this community to listen to concerns, provide additional information and dispel myths.  What was very evident was that no door is being closed for patients who are currently hesitant and the opportunity to come forward for vaccination remains very firmly in place.”

Dr Seb Kalwij – Clinical Director North Lewisham PCN said: “Working together as two PCNs has been a great experience. Clinicians from a wide variety of practices enjoy working together as a team and the positive atmosphere in the vaccination hub. But we couldn’t do this without the tremendous support from our volunteers, up to 25 per shift, and our digital care coordinators. We are here for the long run as this new way of working will continue and General Practice is the right set-up to deliver vaccination at scale, 700 vaccines per day, six days per week. We know our patients, we know their cultures and we have their trust.”

Dr Paul Adams – Clinical Director Lewisham Alliance PCN added: “Lewisham Alliance PCN and North Lewisham PCN cover a diverse population from Blackheath to Deptford of around 125,000 patients. We chose to work together from a single site at the Waldron Centre in New Cross feeling that this would allow us to deliver a high-quality and efficient service to our shared patients. This has allowed us to draw upon skillsets and experience from the multidisciplinary teams across the two PCNs. It has also enabled us to ensure that an experienced clinician is on site at all times in the role of clinical lead. This individual is visible to patients and staff and available to assist whenever needed.

“We have been amazed by the volunteers who have come forward to assist with the clinics, over 2,000 applied in Lewisham. Their assistance in the running of the clinics has been extremely valuable. We obtained lanyards and uniforms for them so that patients could recognise them and be aware that they are helping on a voluntary basis. In my time in the clinic I have often observed patients thanking them directly for what they’re doing.

“Vaccine hesitancy has been an issue particularly within the BAME communities and some of the more deprived parts of our area. We have employed a team of care coordinators to engage with these patients directly – they phone the patients to try to find out what the issues are before escalating to a clinician if further clinical advice is needed to try to dispel any vaccine myths they may have heard. Overall feedback on the centre from both clinicians working there and patients visiting has been extremely positive. We hope to continue working together going forwards as we have found many benefits already from doing so.”

Dr Rachel Forgan, North Lewisham PCN said: “We were aware of the challenges around vaccine hesitancy and disenfranchisement in our population and in addition to the care coordinators we have also pursued the following strategies. We have utilised an experience pharmacist and practice nurse to call vaccine hesitant patients across the PCN. We have also developed social media offerings using local clinicians and patients to promote vaccine uptake. We have a PCN GP Fellow for inclusion, who has been doing outreach work into migrant and homeless communities to understand the issues preventing uptake of vaccination and promote registration with a GP. We have made our vaccination centre as accessible as possible, allowing walk in patients in the appropriate JCVI groups. And finally, we have been doing webinars and Q&A sessions with social care staff, who we were aware had very low uptake rates.

“Underpinning this, we have utilised centralised support for recall, and data from health analytics to understand where to target our resources. We are building a greater understanding of factors causing vaccine hesitancy, and are developing strategies with partners in Lewisham to build trust with these communities not just to encourage uptake of COVID vaccinations but to improve other health outcomes for these populations and see this multidisciplinary and cross PCN working as an opportunity to deliver real change.”