GPs vaccinate thousands of patients against COVID-19 in extraordinary settings

GPonline takes a look at some of the more interesting sites that have played host to COVID-19 vaccination clinics, including an 800-year-old cathedral, a mosque and a League Two football ground.

Salisbury Cathedral used as vaccination site (Photo: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Salisbury Cathedral used as vaccination site (Photo: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

Since the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination began in December, GPs and their teams have delivered the lion’s share of jabs - almost three quarters of all those administered in England.

Around 6.7m doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in England by the end of 26 January according to NHS data, with close to 5m of them in primary care.

There are currently over 1,000 GP-led vaccination sites in England. However, not all can be considered conventional settings for delivery medical care.

With the challenge of vaccinating huge numbers of patients, spread across many months, some practices have worked with their CCGs and community partners to make the most of vacant venues.

Salisbury Cathedral vaccinations

In Wiltshire, Sarum South Primary Care Network (PCN) mobilised to set up a vaccination clinic in Salisbury Cathedral, under the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom.

Co-clinical director of the PCN Dr Daniel Henderson said that the idea to set up a vaccination clinic in the cathedral - over 800 years old - was encouraged by the CCG when the network was struggling to find a suitable setting.

Dr Henderson explained that 12 vaccination stations were set up in the cathedral, allowing staff to vaccinate over 1,000 patients per day. He said: ‘When we looked around the site instantly we thought that it would work really well for patient flow; there was space for social distancing and it worked really well.

COVID-19 vaccinations

To date the network has finished two clinics, vaccinating over 2,000 patients from the local area. Those attending the clinic were also treated to live music - with the cathedral organ dusted off to soothe patients while they visited or waited after jabs.

Dr Henderson reflected on the campaign so far and said: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever done anything where the level of thanks and appreciation for a service has been so high… I guess that will be replicated everywhere, but doing it in the cathedral was unique and brought quite a lot of attention to it.

‘Patients certainly seem to enjoy [getting vaccinated at the cathedral] and found it a nice alternative to being in a medical clinic or a GP surgery. We’ve had some patients who we’ve had to move on from the waiting area because they quite enjoyed sitting there listening to the music - that was an expected challenge.’

GPs in Sailsbury were not the only PCN to run a clinic from a place of worship, with Lichfield PCN in Staffordshire vaccinating patients from their local cathedral. Lichfield PCN has so far completed two clinics from Lichfield Cathedral, with the first taking place on 15 January.

Canon of Lichfield Cathedral the Rt Revd Jan McFarlane, tweeted: ‘In the Cathedral setting up for the vaccination clinic. Feel strangely emotional. Working together to beat to this vile common enemy. A beacon of hope.’

Mosque vaccination site

A mosque in the centre of Birmingham has also been converted into a temporary vaccination hub during the pandemic. The Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Balsall Heath was the first in the country to offer vaccinations, and is expected to inoculate up to 500 people a day.

The centre has stepped forward to provide a setting where vaccinations can be given to ensure that patients in the area have a familiar and safe place to get their jabs. GPs recently raised the alarm over low vaccine uptake among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities fuelled by misinformation about the vaccine.

NHS England leaders have since encouraged GPs to interact with local partners and their community to increase uptake among BAME patients, highlighting the benefits of approaching religious leaders.

GPs in London have used Lord’s cricket ground in recent weeks to vaccinate patients, with the first 1,000 vaccinations taking place on 8 January. The clinic is the largest vaccination site in the borough.

Clinical Director of St John’s Wood and Maida Vale PCN Dr Saul Kaufman, said: ‘We’re delighted to have a centre of such an impressive size at Lord’s, which will help the smooth rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Sports grounds host vaccine clinics

‘The team at Lord’s have been incredible to work with and this facility will enable healthcare staff to be able to administer a significant number of vaccinations, in a tremendous effort towards the inoculation programme, and to indeed, aiming to knock COVID for six.’

Some patients who have received their jab at the famous cricket venue so far include former Pakistani cricketer Zaheer Abbas and Countdown’s Nick Hewer.

Other sporting venues have doubled up as GP-led vaccination centres this month, including the Mazuma Stadium in Lancashire, home of Morecambe Football Club. A total of 975 patients aged over 80 received their initial vaccination at the stadium in mid-December.

Clinical director of Bay PCN in Morecambe Dr Andy Maddox told the Morecambe FC website: ‘We’re really happy to be administering the COVID-19 vaccine here in Morecambe. The uptake from patients over the age of 80 has been great because it gives them hope for a future where they can spend time with their families, who they’ve had to be apart from during the pandemic.

‘To deliver this vaccine in a safe and secure environment we’ve been working closely with local partners, including Morecambe Football Club who have been incredibly helpful and we’re very grateful. As a GP I am proud to be part of this work to protect our patients against the virus and I would urge the public to come forward when they are called up for the vaccine.’

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