Heathfield MP, Huw Merriman, has repeated his call for rural GPs to receive better access to vaccination supplies as they meet the next challenge of vaccinating residents between the age of 50 and 70 years old, those aged over 16 years with specified health conditions and administering the second dose to the first four priority groups.
The MP was speaking following a weekend visit to the Heathfield and the Firs surgery where he sat in on a vaccination session and discussed the roll-out with the GP team.
Mr Merriman said “It was great to spend part of the morning with Dr Jacques and her assistant Sophie [ ] as they registered and vaccinated patient after patient. There have been some difficult moments in the set-up across the rural parts of the constituency so it was quite moving to see the work being carried out. The team at the Heathfield and the Firs surgery are doing a magnificent job.
It is frustrating that the NHS cannot provide a contract which fits the needs of their surgery. There isn’t the space to have the 15 minute supervised seating time required by Pfizer. The NHS contract doesn’t allow Astra Zeneca to be the sole supply. I raised this difficulty in the House of Commons when questioning Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary. The situation for GPs across the country is even more frustrating because pharmacy-led centres do receive Astra Zeneca only from the NHS. The GP team have managed this challenge by taking their patients to Uckfield, where Pfizer can be administered, and vaccinating the Astra Zeneca supply in Heathfield.
With the vaccination moving to the next stage, it’s important to give as much Astra Zeneca to the practices which do not have the space to manage the Pfizer logistics. As was demonstrated in my visit, the GP team at Heathfield and the Firs care passionately about their patients and have found a way to ensure they can receive their vaccination. I’d like to say a big thank you to Dr Jacques and all of the team at the surgery.”
Dr Sarah Jacques said:
"We had to make a really disheartening decision in December not to sign up to the contract. Unfortunately, at the time, it would have seriously compromised our ability to provide day to day services safely.
"After a concerted effort by the team, we are really pleased that we are now able to offer vaccination to a large number of patients at the Heathfield surgery as well as providing a service from The Meads surgery in Uckfield. In the last 2 weeks we have vaccinated over 1800 patients. We would always prefer to vaccinate our own patients at our surgery. Being able to administer AstraZeneca only vaccines from the surgery would make it much easier to vaccinate our patients, at a faster rate and in patient tailored environment. Additionally, our regular services are in higher demand than before the pandemic and having the AstraZeneca vaccine would allow vaccinations to be done at a time that does not compromise our other service provision."
More than 450,000 people in Sussex have now had their first COVID-19 vaccination. The NHS in Sussex has achieved the national target and more than 90% of everyone aged 70 and over has received their first dose. The vaccination has now been offered to everyone in the top four priority groups.
The roll-out of the jab in Sussex has now been extended to people age 65 and over and those who are clinically vulnerable. These next two priority groups for the vaccination are starting to receive invitations and are now able to book their appointments. People can book their appointments online through the national booking service or call 119.