GPs have confirmed that vaccination for the over 80s will at last begin next Thursday, 28 January. We are behind in vaccination in south west Shropshire. We hope to catch up in just a few days.

Residents of registered with GPs Ludlow, Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Clun and Bishops Castle who are over 80 will receive letters or calls inviting them to attend the Mayfair Centre on Easthope Road in Church Stretton. Clinics are expected run 12 hours a day, including through next weekend.

Discussions are underway with bus and taxi companies about transport. Those that are housebound or cannot travel to Church Stretton will be offered vaccination in the coming weeks.

Please don’t ring your GP about your vaccination appointment. Switchboards have been overwhelmed. GPs are saying: “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” Ring 119 if you think you might be ill with Covid-19 or want a test. Ring your GP if you have concerns about other illnesses.

It was confirmed on Saturday that vaccination in the south west will begin on Thursday. GPs will be using the Mayfair Centre on Easthope Road for all south west Shropshire. The centre will be open from 8am to 8pm from Thursday to at least Sunday. Letters will refer to this as the Health and Wellbeing Centre. It’s the same building. Letters are being sent out from tomorrow. You may also be contacted by phone, sometimes at short notice.

If there are difficulties with the supply of vaccine, your appointment might need to change at short notice. This is the not the fault of our GPs who are working tirelessly to deliver vaccination. Does your GP have your text number?

Discussions are already underway about arranging transport to both the Mayfair Centre and also to Ludlow Racecourse which is expected to open at the beginning of February. More information on transport as soon as we have it.

The Pfizer vaccine is very delicate and can only be moved three times by vehicle on the way to a patient’s arm. That is the reason for the choice of a single hub at Church Stretton which will serve an area of around 400 sq miles. Around a thousand square kilometres. A population of 45,000 or so people. Ludlow Racecourse could serve a population of well over 100,000.

GPs from across South Shropshire will be working together at the Health & Wellbeing Centre (Mayfair) in Church Stretton. The team will have GPs, nurses, health care assistants and administrative staff from all the practices in Ludlow, Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Clun and Bishops Castle.

Please spare a thought for our health professionals. They will still be running their normal practice surgeries which are always very busy this time of the year.

Please don’t ring your GP about your vaccination appointment. Switchboards have been overwhelmed. GPs are saying: “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.”

We are all frustrated that vaccine delivery has been so slow. We are all getting angry at the excuses from MPs and the Clinical Commissioning Group about the complexity of logistics and our rurality. Leaders in rural areas should not be making excuses for poor delivery. They should not be using rurality as an excuse.

Owen Paterson is one of many apologetic politicians to fall for the political fallacy that meeting the government’s targets is just fine. It is not. Getting ahead of targets will more save lives. A lot of lives. Paterson told the Shropshire Star:

“The minister is clear we will meet the target to deliver for the four priority cohorts by mid-February.”

He doesn’t say what the target is. And it is not what most people think it is or probably what he thinks it is. Boris Johnson said this at the beginning of February:

“By the middle of February if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups…”

The target is not to give the vaccine but offer it. This allows for those that will refuse vaccination – anti-vaxxers, hesitators, etc. But it also allows for the government to hide behind weaselly words. We have offered the vaccine! We have met our targets! It is not letters in the post that matter. It is jabs in people’s arms that save lives.

We deserve better. Sadly, few of us expect better from our politicians.

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