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Working together to vaccinate vulnerable people against COVID-19 in Selby

A leading doctor has shone a light on how GP practices, councils and the voluntary sector have worked together to protect vulnerable people against COVID-19 in Selby.

Dr Nick Jackson, Clinical Director of Selby Town Primary Care Network, has paid tribute to the partnership working that has helped ensure people with learning disabilities and the homeless are receiving their vaccines.

He says that by working together as a Primary Care Network, the four GP practices – Escrick Surgery, Beech Tree Surgery, Posterngate Surgery and Scott Road Medical Centre – have been able to coordinate care for vulnerable groups in ways that would not previously have been possible.

He also highlighted the key role played by Selby District Council and North Yorkshire County Council in identifying and contacting people classified as homeless, along with volunteers supporting the vaccination programme and the voluntary sector, which has supported the work through services such as community transport.

Vulnerable groups

Dr Jackson said: "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."

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan, bringing general practices together to work at scale and focus on delivery, to provide a wider range of services to patients in a coordinated way across communities. This includes introducing new roles into general practice which helps GPs focus their skills where they are most needed, such as diagnosing and treating patients.

Dr Jackson said one such member of the team, the PCN's Learning Disabilities and Serious Mental Illness Care Coordinator, had been "instrumental" in identifying and contacting people with learning disabilities and their carers, and helping to allay any concerns they may have had. The PCN also laid on dedicated vaccination clinics for people with learning disabilities at its purpose-designed facility in the town.

He also highlighted how working with councils to reach homeless people had opened up new ways of providing care: "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 Selby 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."

New possibilities

Janet Waggott, Chief Executive of Selby District Council, said: “As a local authority, we offer advice and support to many residents, especially people who are or at risk of homelessness. Our Housing Options team has been working very closely with the Primary Care Networks to provide the vaccinations for our customers. So far this has been a great success with a 45% turnout on the first weekend. These are mostly transient people and who if we had not engaged with would have failed to take up their appointment.

“We are continuing this work for the next vaccination slots to ensure that as many people who want the vaccine to have the opportunity.”

Dr Jackson added: "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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