This was unexpected. Shropshire Council’s portfolio holder for health, Dean Carroll announced this morning that the Ludlow Racecourse Vaccination Centre will open at the beginning of February. National Health England (NHE) had been refusing to release this information and Dean stuck his neck out to make the announcement this morning. It was not due to the end of next week. I take my hat off to him.
NHE and the Shropshire CCG believe that the best way of keeping everyone informed is to tell them as little as possible as late as possible. And blame everything onto the complexity of delivery, not their own mismanagement. They have no understanding of the uncertainty and distress they have been causing to people anxious to protect themselves through vaccination. It needs to step up and tell people what is happening as it is.
Commenting on the announcement, Tracey Huffer Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East said:
“We welcome this clarification. Everyone is fed up with the sporadic and even inconsistent information from National Health England and the Clinical Commissioning Group. This is causing confusion and distress. Health professionals and our GPs want to get people vaccinated. People here in Ludlow want to be vaccinated.”
There is a lot we don’t know about the vaccination centre at Ludlow Racecourse. Which age groups will be asked to go to the Racecourse? For many people in Ludlow itself, it will be easier to get to the Racecourse than Church Stretton. It also makes sense to travel shorter distances. We understand that transport will be provided from Ludlow but we don’t have details yet.
This Ludlow Racecourse will be run by Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group. Local GPs from across south west Shropshire will be involved helping deliver the vaccinations. Vaccination in Ludlow surgeries and those across south west Shropshire will follow.
As I explained in an article earlier today, the rollout of vaccination in Shropshire is amongst the slowest in the country. Health bodies, Shropshire Council’s leader and MPs were applauding the rollout. The exception was Shaun Davies, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council who has been a consistent critic of the lack of vaccine. Philip Dunne joined the criticism belatedly yesterday. But yesterday we got the truth. NHE and Shropshire CCG have been covering up an appalling record in delivering vaccinations in our area. They had been pulling wool over our eyes.
Councillor Dean Carroll told BBC Radio Shropshire this morning:
“I’m absolutely furious. We have been asking every day since the vaccination programme started at the start of December for progress in Shropshire. We’ve been raising concerns about the slow pace that centres have been allowed to open. And at every turn, we’ve been told that Shropshire is on a par with everywhere else. At no point did NHS England regionally flag that Shropshire was lagging this far behind.”
He praised local health workers and managers and laid the blame at regional and national leaders in NHS England accusing them of, “having this culture of absolute secrecy. I’d liken it to bordering on paranoia when it comes to the vaccine roll-out, which is unhealthy in the extreme”.
“I want to get across to you our extreme frustration at the council, because we have bent over backwards. We have done everything that was asked of us as soon as it was asked, and more. We were asked at the start of December to provide a long list of potential sites which we did quickly. In order to speed up things we provided project managers to get the sites off the ground. We’ve offered HR support. We’ve provided IT support. We’re putting together a transport package to help people to get to vaccination centres. We’ve offered our comms team as a resource. This is incredibly frustrating, because we’ve asked repeatedly since the start of December when will sites like Ludlow, like Shrewsbury, like Whitchurch, like Market Drayton come online, and we’ve been met with a wall of silence.”
He said that he was prepared to reveal the vaccination centre sites in Shropshire, despite National Health England’s insistence they should be kept a secret until it is ready to announce them. From the very start of February, vaccination centres will open at Ludlow Racecourse, and the indoor bowling centre at Shrewsbury Sports Village. Whitchurch Civic Centre will open in mid-February, possibly earlier.
“GP rollout will take place across the county. Not every surgery will have the space or capacity to deliver vaccination but the vast majority will. The first ones will be receiving the vaccines for the end of next week. We are looking at places such as Church Stretton and Market Drayton because we are aware, particularly in the south west of the country, Ludlow, Bishop’s Castle and Church Stretton, and in the north east around Market Drayton, those locations have been left far behind by National Health England.
He said Shropshire Council is putting together a transport package to help people get to vaccination centres.
Recording of Councillor Dean Carroll on Ludlow Racecourse Vaccination Centre talking to Adam Green on BBC Radio Shropshire. Additional commentary by Joanne Gallagher.
The text above originally said GPs would not be involved in vaccination at the Racecourse. This was incorrect. The text has been corrected to reflect this.