Leeds GPs begin offering Covid vaccine

GP practice staff in Leeds marked a significant milestone today (15 December), when they took part in the roll out of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history.

During the first wave of the primary care vaccination programme this week, GP practices in more than 100 locations in England are offering the vaccine to patients.

Nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other staff are working alongside GPs to vaccinate those aged 80 and over, who have been identified as the first priority for this life-saving vaccine.

Like hospital staff who launched the world-leading campaign last week, practice teams have worked quickly to redesign their sites and put in place safe processes to meet the tough logistical challenges of offering the vaccination.

Dr Joanne Cummings, a GP at East Park surgery in Leeds, said, “Our team is tremendously proud to be part of this huge national effort to protect our patients against the virus.

“It’s been a significant logistical challenge to get everything ready and to keep all our other services running, but my colleagues have risen to the challenge magnificently, and we’re all really excited to be playing our part.”

The first patient to receive the vaccination at East Park was 84 year old Francis Cook. Mr Cook, known as Frank, retired 20 years ago after spending his working life in the motor industry and five years in the RAF.

Frank has a son and a daughter, who both live in Leeds, as well as two young grandchildren. He chose to be vaccinated so that he can start seeing them again.

Dr Michael Hall, a retired GP, received his vaccination at Hillfoot Surgery in Pudsey. He said “I’m pleased that it’s started. I’m behind the bus pushing along with everyone else now. Today is a good day despite the weather.

“It feels as though I’ve started some sort of fight back, and if it protects me, it protects someone else – this is help for the whole community, not just me.”

The community sites build on the work of the scores of hospital hubs which have already started vaccinating, with 90-year old Margaret Keenan receiving her first dose to become a global trailblazer in Coventry just a week ago.

The latest phase of the vaccine roll-out is being co-ordinated by GP-led primary care networks with more practices and community pharmacies in other parts of England joining on a phased basis during December and in the coming months.

Dr Jason Broch, Clinical Chair of NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group and a GP in Leeds, urged people waiting for coronavirus vaccinations to be patient.

“We’re very proud to be part of this landmark effort and would urge everyone to have their vaccination – but please be patient.

“Patients will be contacted and invited for vaccination – please don’t contact your practice about it, they will contact you. Practices are already running a wide range of services, as well as the Covid vaccination programme, and waiting until you’re contacted will help keep phone lines open for people who are ill or need our help.”

The leader of Leeds City Council, Cllr Judith Blake, said:  “The arrival of the Covid vaccine in our local communities is very welcome news and means we’re another step closer to ensuring that people who need the vaccine can receive it.

“However, we need people to be aware that it will still be some time before the vaccine is available to the general public. In the meantime, we ask everyone to do all that they can to further limit the spread of the virus.

“Please continue to stick to the rules, wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering where necessary and maintain social distancing. It will be especially important to celebrate the festive season safely so we don’t see a big surge in cases in January.”