Primary care networks have been holding drop-in Covid vaccination clinics to reach their remaining unvaccinated patients in priority cohorts 1-9.
Patients usually require an appointment to be vaccinated, which they can make after receiving an invite telling them to go online or call their practice, but some have not gone on to do so.
In Bolton, the local GP federation decided to make the process more convenient for patients and to cut down any obstacles in accessing the vaccines by holding a walk-in vaccination service.
The GP-led clinic, which took place last Sunday (28 March) at a community hall, saw 378 people receive their first dose of the vaccine.
Bolton GP Federation performance and programme manager Dawn Lythgoe told Pulse that they developed the clinic following evidence showing that the appointment booking procedure had been a ‘potential barrier’ to some people getting vaccinated.
She said: ‘Not everybody has got access to a mobile phone, to receive a text or go online. It’s about saying, actually, you don’t need to do any of that, just come along if you meet the criteria.’
The federation followed up on its social media posts and posters advertising the clinics by organising teams to knock on the doors of patients, she added. The clinic, which had 10 vaccinators on site, also had a number of multilingual volunteers on hand.
Ms Lythgoe added: ‘Overall, it went really well. We had capacity to deliver more than that. The people turning up were the people we were trying to reach – those who haven’t already had the vaccination for whatever reason. The numbers are small, but significant – because they are very vulnerable.’
Last week, South London GP Dr Nick Merrifield told Pulse that his practice – the lead for his PCN – had been ‘increasingly struggling to fill appointments’, and that he put a poster out on a local Facebook group, inviting over-50s to ‘turn up’ for a jab on 20 March.
He said this represented a ‘change of policy’, as the practice would normally discourage people turning up without an appointment, but that as a result, 150 people got their jab.
‘We are trying to experiment with different ways of tapping into this,’ he added.
Dr Merrifield, at the time, said his practice saw a higher uptake of the Covid vaccine among the older age groups, earlier in the programme, and that take up ‘feels under 50%’ currently with the younger cohorts, even after a text and phone reminder.
He added: ‘It’s interesting that we spent hours all week ringing people who didn’t want it, and yet one post on Facebook resulted in 150 people who did.’
Other local organisations have also been holding drop-in vaccination clinics to maximise uptake.
Leicestershire Partnership Trust, with the help of the local CCGs, held drop-in clinics on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 March for all eligible patients at a local centre, and saw 450 walk-ins on the first day alone.
Also, 537 patients attended a drop-in clinic at a local mosque last Thursday (25 March), which had been arranged by the CCG, local PCNs and community organisations, including one made up of Somali healthcare professionals who could speak with some patients in their only language.
Dr Samira Hassan, a GP in Leicester and lead clinician at Somali Healthcare Professionals Leicester, said: ‘Drop-in clinics such as these are vitally important in order to really engage with local communities and to enable ease of access to the vaccine, particularly where we continue to have risk factors which lead to higher rates of Covid.’
Over the weekend, NHS England’s top GP urged patients aged 50-69 to come forward for their Covid jab, while GPs on the ground have told Pulse some 50-year-olds displayed ‘apathy’ towards having the vaccine.
At the time, three in four 50-54s had received a Covid jab, while that number was 95% for the over-60s.
Analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that over-70s from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have been far less likely to have their Covid jab than their white peers, with Black Africans the least likely to come forward.
NHS England also recently said that GP-led vaccination sites should consider setting up drive-through vaccination clinics where this will improve uptake in their local populations.