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On 7th January, NHS England and NHS Improvement sent a letter to key figures throughout the NHS about the immediate requirement to vaccinate frontline health and social care staff.

Sent to Chief Executives of all NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts, Chief People Officers, Chief Nursing Officers, Vaccine SROs, Primary Care Networks and GP Practices, the letter provides additional operational guidance about the vaccination process to ensure maximum uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in a timely manner with equitable access across staff groups.

The letter begins by thanking staff who have already made significant progress in commencing the coronavirus vaccination programme. It says that now is the time to vaccinate frontline health and social care staff, in line with the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) prioritisation guidance.

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“This is critical to ensure we protect health and care workers, patients and the public at a time when COVID-19 pressures across health and care are intensifying,” the letter reads.

The BHTA has welcomed this official guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) prioritising frontline health and social care workers in the vaccine rollout programme but has stressed the need that no workers in the healthcare sector are overlooked in the rollout.

The letter continues that by mid-January NHS Trusts will be established as “hospital hubs” with a responsibility for COVID-19 vaccine delivery to all individuals within JCVI cohort 2b as set out in the updated Public Health England Green Book – which includes health and social care staff.

JCVIs recommend that within this group, vaccination priority should be given to frontline staff “at high risk of acquiring infection, at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to multiple vulnerable persons or other staff in a healthcare environment”.

NHSEI says this includes but is not limited to:

  • staff working on the vaccination programme
  • staff who have frequent face-to-face contact with patients and who are directly involved in patient care in either secondary or primary care, mental health, urgent and emergency care and community settings
  • those working in independent, voluntary and non-standard healthcare settings such as hospices, and community-based mental health or addiction services
  • laboratory, pathology and mortuary staff
  • those working for a sub-contracted provider of facilities services such as portering or cleaning
  • temporary, locum or ‘bank’ staff, including those working in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, students, trainees and volunteers who are working with patients
  • frontline social care workers directly working with vulnerable people who need care and support irrespective of where they work (for example in hospital, people’s own homes, day centres, or supported housing); or who they are employed by (for example local government, NHS, independent sector or third sector).

To start vaccinating health and social care workers, the letter says that by mid-January, all NHS Trusts will be established as “hospital hubs” and the default provider of COVID-19 vaccinations for these staff members.

It says that these hubs should immediately start vaccinating healthcare staff and work in conjunction with local authorities to plan and deliver vaccinations to all frontline social care staff. Furthermore, the hubs are expected to coordinate with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and local systems to offer the COVID-19 vaccines to all healthcare workers working in primary care as well as independent practitioners and independent providers including general practice (including locum staff), community pharmacy, dentistry, optometry and hospices.

NHSEI advises that hospital hubs will need to liaise with partner organisations in order to provide optimal coverage and by organising clinics at times which are accessible to all health and social care workers.

NHS Trusts have been told to vaccinate all health and social care staff as quickly as possible, focusing on achieving maximum uptake of the vaccine. The letter says that vaccines should be provided seven days a week and that “significant progress” should be made by the first week of February.

“Next steps should involve ensuring that the Trust lead for staff vaccinations (usually NHS Trust Chief People Officers, Directors of HR, Chief Nursing Officers or Chief Operating Officers) and leads from established staff networks, engage with the local vaccine operations centre and SRO to develop and implement detailed plans for delivery,” the letter finishes.

“If you have any questions about this letter, please email the national vaccine operations centre at england.covidvaccs@nhs.net and the team will be happy to respond.

“Thank you again for your continued efforts. In providing the COVID-19 vaccine in a fast and equitable way, we aim to protect patients, staff, carers and families and continue to deliver high-quality care in the most demanding circumstances.”

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