Massive flu vaccination programme across Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton risks primary care staff ‘burn out’

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The race is on to give all people in at-risk groups across Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Luton the flu jab before the winter illness season kicks in.

A meeting today (Wednesday) heard that the NHS vaccination campaign has been launched, but it is going to be a gargantuan task for exhausted health workers to vaccinate everyone at the same time as staving off coronavirus.

In Bedford borough alone there are 30,679 over 65s, 23,432 people at risk and under 65, more than 2,100 pregnant mums and 21,500 children eligible for the first phase of of the vaccination programme.

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All over 50s have been included in a second phase but local health teams have been advised to “park up” this group until the more at-risk people are given the jab.

“If we are vaccinating for eight hours a day, we will need to do two vaccinations each minute to reach 70 per cent coverage,” said Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson at a meeting of the borough council’s health and wellbeing board.

The target this year is to vaccinate 75 per cent of at-risk groups but across Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Luton, those targets have not been hit for years, the mayor said.

Presenting the seasonal flu plan for the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes area, Dr Sanhita Chakrabarti said they are attempting to “reach out” to different communities, including those in deprived areas.

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GP practices are being urged to complete their vaccination plans and to ensure they have ordered enough vaccine from suppliers. That has been a problem in previous flu seasons.

A massive flu vaccination campaign is being run this yearA massive flu vaccination campaign is being run this year
A massive flu vaccination campaign is being run this year

Dr Chakrabarti said: “This will be a significant challenge. Our workforce is already quite tired.”

And they will be asked extra hours to give out the vaccines.

A report to the committee read that due to “the intensity of programme, potential sickness and potential burn out is anticipated in primary care staff due to extra hours required to work to deliver the flu programme.”

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Health leaders are looking at drafting in clinical teams who are not in frontline work, as well as people like ambulance staff and pharmacists to work as vaccinators.

Cllr Wendy Rider (Lib Dem, Brickhill) said she was concerned about there being enough vaccine.

Dr Chakrabarti said: “Suppliers are assuring us we have enough in the system. GP practices are ordering and so far we are getting the assurance that we will receive the supply. It’s an area we have struggled with in previous years.”

The meeting heard that plans are in place to use places such as village halls and GP practice car parks to give people their jabs. Places of worship could also be used.

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Mayor Dave encouraged health staff to get vaccinated because “there are some very tired people out there and we need to encourage them to get the flu vaccine.”

The meeting agreed to note the seasonal flu plan.

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