GP-led vaccination site suffers back-to-back attacks

Back-to-back attacks on a GP-led vaccination site in Cornwall have led to family doctors urging patients to get in touch with their surgery if they have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccine tent slashed (Photo: NHS Kernow)
COVID-19 vaccine tent slashed (Photo: NHS Kernow)

Tents used for vaccinating patients were first attacked on 28 October after anti-vaxxers sprayed bright red graffiti on the walls of the temporary structures, which was then scrubbed off.

The second attack happened just three days later, with the marquees - stationed at Mount Hawke Surgery in Truro - being slashed overnight. Staff at the site have so far delviered 25,000 vaccines to patients.

Repairs have been made to the tents - allowing staff to reopen the site to patients from 2 November. CCTV cameras have also been installed following the attack, while local police are investigating the incidents.

GP-led vaccines

The events follow comments from the health secretary this week that the government could do 'more' to protect primary care staff against abusive behaviour, with Sajid Javid stressing there is 'never an excuse' for abusing NHS staff.

GP at St Agnes Surgery Dr Chris Whitworth told GPonline that the vandalism was disappointing given staff are working extra hours to protect patients against COVID-19. He said: ‘It’s really sad that someone has done this at a time when cases of COVID-19 are increasing in the community.

'Getting vaccinated not only protects you and your loved ones, but is our way out of this pandemic. If anyone has concerns or questions about the vaccine, then please talk to us - your practice team are really happy to discuss your concerns or queries with you on this or any other health matter.

‘This act of vandalism will not stop us from vaccinating people, and I encourage anyone who either hasn’t had their first or second dose to book an appointment by calling 119 or visiting nhs.uk. Anyone who’s eligible for a booster jab will be contacted when it’s their turn.’

NHS staff abuse

NHS Kernow’s director of integrated primary care services Andrew Abbott, said: ‘The NHS takes a zero tolerance approach to abuse and intimidation levelled against its staff, who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to make sure our communities are safe.

‘We have reported this matter to Devon and Cornwall Police, and we won’t hesitate to report all instances to ensure our staff and patients are safe, protected, and valued.’

As part of its GP 'rescue package' the government has provided GP practices with £5m of funding to facilitate essential upgrades to practice security amid recent attacks on premises. But the BMA has called the funding ‘utterly inadequate’.

Answering questions from MPs around the safety of practice staff earlier this week, Sajid Javid said: 'Yes, I think there is more [we can do]... we will certainly look to add to the [£5m funding] support to support our fantastic GPs in every way we can.'

Last week a man suspected of injuring four members of staff at a GP practice in Openshaw, Manchester, was charged with nine offences, including actual bodily harm. In April a practice in Surrey was targeted by anti-vaxxers after a poster was plastered on the entrance doors of the surgery.

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