Making a difference during the pandemic
21 February 2022 | Mike Passfield QN, Clinical Operations Director
I work as the Clinical Operations Director of large-scale Covid-19 vaccination services across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk and Waveney health systems and am employed by Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, which is one of the 3 lead providers for large scale vaccination centres across the East of England region.
I was asked to lead the Trust’s Covid-19 vaccination programme in October 2020 for a ‘few months’ to initiate the temporary large-scale vaccination hubs, in conjunction with primary care networks (general practice and pharmacy sites) and Hospital Hubs. I was redeployed from my substantive role as Regional Head of Integrated Contraception and Sexual Health Services (www.icash.nhs.uk) to Programme Director for Large Scale Vaccination services.
I never expected to embark on a challenge such as this in my career. Some 16 months later with 11 centres running, I am proud to be part of a programme which has delivered over 1.3 million vaccinations to our population. There is no doubt that at times this has felt like being in unchartered waters, with significant time and resource pressures – pretty much like an extended and ongoing episode of Challenge Aneka!
After setting up the vaccination service and centres with a small team, most of whom initially continued to deliver their day jobs, our first vaccination was administered in the 18th January 2021. Thereafter we opened several other sites and the programme became a ‘business as usual’ function with a largely dedicated leadership team. I took on the role of Clinical Operations Director in June 2021 and what was initially a temporary service has become a medium-term (and likely long-term) initiative.
Some 16 months later with 11 centres running, I am proud to be part of a programme which has delivered over 1.3 million vaccinations to our population.Mike Passfield QN
Our vaccination centre teams have been nothing short of inspirational incorporating administrators, stewards, vaccinators and healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, opticians and occupational therapist. The list goes on and each individual has played a key role in our success.
The generosity shown by the public in contributing to the vaccination programme has been exceptional. We have trained non-clinical staff to become competent vaccinators including airline crew, firefighters, researchers, students and many others. It really has been a community effort to deliver the largest vaccination programme ever seen in the NHS. We must also not forget the incredible St John Ambulance who have trained over 26,000 people nationally for patient advocate, post vaccination observers and vaccinator roles, and the Royal Voluntary Service who have recruited hundreds of thousands nationally to support centres with vital roles such as stewarding, car parking and patient information advocates.
Managing patient expectations is one of our biggest challenges we face. For example, many people assume the COVID-19 vaccine is similar to the flu vaccine: they go into their GP and three minutes later it’s done. In a large scale vaccination centre, the process takes longer and this can be frustrating for people being vaccinated. Good communication is key, so people understand the importance of maintaining social distance, checking for Covid-19 symptoms, receiving information about the vaccine, and initially the requirement to wait for 15 minutes afterwards, albeit this has recently been removed.
Given our goal is to vaccinate between 500 and 1600 people per day depending on the size of the centre, our focus on maintaining patient flow, whilst balancing this with excellence in patient care and experience has been critical. You want patients to feel safe whilst delivering an efficient and effective service.
In healthcare we are used to exploring things with patients, giving people space to share concerns and discussing next steps. This principle has been incredibly important with people who have been vaccine-hesitant but so worthwhile and a testament to the skills of our immunisers and healthcare professionals when, having had the chance to discuss their concerns, some have left having had their jab.
As a result of Covid-19 some of us now live without loved ones – some of us will have also lost much-respected colleagues and friends. This pandemic has touched us all, affecting the way we live, the way we work and the value we place on simple things, like hugging a family member or friend. We’ve seen existing inequalities exposed and exacerbated for people using and working in health and social care services which has led to much soul-searching for so many of us.
I feel incredibly privileged to be part of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, both as a Clinical Operations Director, a registrant and a vaccinator, engaging with diverse teams who have gone over and above to successfully deliver what initially seemed like an impossible task.
Photo courtesy of pexels, Maksim Goncharenok