It was the NHS’s worst kept secret. Shropshire is way behind many other areas in vaccinating it’s over 80s. Just 49 per cent of over 80s, including those in care homes, have been vaccinated. Just across the border in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, 73 per cent have been vaccinated. Only seven of 42 areas in England are doing worse than us.
The Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group blames this on the complexity of the vaccine and logistics. It has not explained why this is suddenly becomes more complex when the vaccine crosses the border into our historic county.
All the over 80s in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin will be vaccinated by 31 January the CCG says. The message from GP leaders is less certain. They are asking people from across south west Shropshire to go to Church Stretton for their jab until vaccination is available at local surgeries.
For the first time yesterday, NHE published data broken down by STP. STPs are one of the seemingly infinite layers of NHS bureaucracy which has chopped up England into 42 local areas with the aim of transforming local health delivery. We come under the Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin STP which in effect covers the two unitary council areas.
Only seven STPs in England do worse than ours. It is striking, as so many people have noted, that Herefordshire and Worcestershire do so much better. Only two STPs, Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire, do better than our neighbours. Herefordshire and Worcestershire have also vaccinated around 12 per cent of over 18s – these will be largely health and care workers. Shropshire has only vaccinated around six per cent.
This difference cannot be blamed on complexity and logistics. The CCG’s excuse is tosh and nonsense. The slow rollout is down to management of health services in Shropshire. The attitude of the CCG is summed up by this tweet from Dr Julian Povey, the joint chair of the CCG:
We are not allowed vaccine until we are ready to receive it. Some parts of Shropshire haven’t been ready to receive vaccine until now. The CCG barely seems to have a grip on the problems. That has let Shropshire residents down.
BBC Radio Shropshire’s coverage of coronavirus vaccination this morning began with an interview with David Evans, chief executive of Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups. He admitted that he would have liked to have done more vaccinations by now but gave no clear explanation as to why Shropshire is so far behind neighbouring counties. He said this is a very, complex programme and takes time to sort out suitable sites. He did not explain why that is a problem in Shropshire and not elsewhere in the country. He did say some GPs and Primary Care Networks did not want to sign up to the national agreement but have done now. When asked whether this was a reason why our vaccination figures are so low, he replied that there will be a significant improvement in the next few weeks. That ducked the question entirely and is typical of the CCG which doesn’t seem to be able to give a straight answer to a straight question.
Adam Green pressed on vaccination for housebound people concerns. Evans said that the current advice is the Oxford AstraZeneca comes in packages of eight or ten doses and cannot then moved once opened. That would lead to wastage. He expects guidance on this to change but housebound people will have to wait longer. Shropshire is on target to deliver vaccination to all over 65 in care homes by Sunday this week and all over 80s and frontline staff NHS and care staff by the end of next week, 31 January.
Recording of Dave Evans, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin CCG talking to Adam Green on BBC Radio Shropshire.
Next up was Finola Lynch GP. She is clinical director of the South West Primary Care Network, the group of GP practices in south west Shropshire. She confirmed that care home residents in our area would be vaccinated by Sunday and described vaccinating in care homes as wonderfully moving and uplifting. She said the over 80s would start next week. But, in an apparent contradiction of Dave Evans, she said GPs still don’t have a delivery date for the vaccine and it could be one of three dates next week. As soon as that is confirmed GPs will start making appointments for patients. Finola said south west Shropshire is a beautiful area but poses problems of logistics. Everyone has worked really well together to come up with a plan. Pfizer will be the initial vaccine but is trickier to roll out. It is delicate and transportation is complicated. The vaccines will be delivered to Church Stretton. We hope that as we get more AstraZeneca vaccine, we will be able to move that out to GP practices. But to begin with it will be Pfizer and that vaccine can’t be moved once it gets to Church Stretton.
“We are planning for Pfizer to arrive at Church Stretton and that where we will start vaccinating. All our patients over 80 in all our practices. The call will come initially for you to come to Church Stretton and be vaccinated there.
“We know is a big ask… But ultimately, we cannot do anything about the way the vaccine is made… But rest assured if it isn’t possible for you to come to Church Stretton, with the arrival imminently of AstraZeneca as well, which is a much easier vaccine to move or take into people’s homes for those that are housebound, we do have other options. But my plea will be if you can come when we call you, then please do. The quicker we can get the jab into people’s arms, the quicker we can get people and the population protected. This is why we are asking people to come to us if you can. If that is not possible, we will get that vaccine to your practice.
“We are planning to run 12-hour a day clinics, initially starting at Church Stretton.
“We are very confident that very soon, we will have all our over 80s vaccinated and then we will be moving on to the next groups.
“There is a vaccine for you. You will get it.”
Recording of Finola Lynch talking to Adam Green on BBC Radio Shropshire.