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Working together to protect the vulnerable

Before the advent of Primary Care Networks, we wouldn't have had the oversight of our vulnerable groups in the way we do now.

We wouldn't have had a coordinated approach to delivering care for them, and we certainly couldn't have pulled together a large-scale vaccination campaign in the way that we have done without collaboration across all four practices. It highlights the importance of PCNs, and shines a light on what PCNs can do. This is perhaps just the start of what we can do as a collaborative venture. The sky's the limit for what we could achieve.

In terms of vaccinating some of our most vulnerable cohorts against COVID-19, it's been a really big team effort to pull it all together, particularly in terms of people with learning disabilities. Lindsey Pashley, our PCN's Learning Disabilities and Serious Mental Illness Care Coordinator, was instrumental in helping to identify our cohort and contact them, and talk to people and carers about any concerns they had. Along with our network of practice admin and reception teams, it was a really strong effort in contacting those people and booking them in, helping to allay any fears they might have.

We've made adjustments where we had to – we ran some dedicated clinics just for people with learning disabilities to come to our vaccination centre, which I think was really important, and where people weren't able to attend we've arranged home visits. Our nursing teams were key to the successful delivery to that cohort. I'm really proud of the effort that everybody put in and it was very much a team effort.

When I talk about a team effort, it's not just within the PCN – it's within all our partnership relationships across the whole area. We've had really good support from Selby District Council, who helped us get the venue for the vaccination centre, really good support from our volunteers who are helping deliver the vaccinations at the centre and great engagement from North Yorkshire County Council, helping us to identify and work with our homeless population, and the voluntary sector who have been helpful in providing transport.

Vaccinating homeless people has been a learning experience for us because those people really aren't visible on general practice registered lists. We've found out that "sofa-surfing" is a big problem, but it's only by working through the voluntary agencies and the district council, who have some sight of these people, that we've discovered how big a problem it is and we've only been able to reach out to them through partnership with those agencies.

In identifying these people we've been able to engage with them, and once we've given them the vaccine it them opens up possibilities for what other healthcare interventions we can help them with. So we're beginning to make some inroads into some really important population health needs that we just had no sight of before.

This has demonstrated the value of partnership working, way beyond what we can do as purely health-focused practices. We're just beginning to scratch the surface of what the possibilities are for Primary Care Networks and for thinking about health and wellbeing in a completely different way.

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Dr Nick Jackson

Dr Nick Jackson was born and brought up in North Yorkshire; he has been a full-time GP at Beech Tree Surgery in Selby since 1998. He has interests in diabetes and minor surgery as well as teaching medical students and junior doctors. As Clinical Director for the Selby Town Primary Care Network (PCN), he oversees the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the area. Here he explains how partnership working has been behind the PCN's success in vaccinating priority cohorts including those with learning disabilities and the homeless.

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