'Let's come together and make history' – Call for volunteers ahead of vaccine centres' opening
- Credit: PA
The woman in charge of the coronavirus vaccine programme in Suffolk has called for the county to come together to make history ahead of a mass rollout.
More than a dozen vaccination centres are set to open in the county from Monday, January 11, alongside existing centres inside Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals and GP surgeries. They will be open 12-hours a day, seven-days a week.
The large-scale operation comes thanks in part to a wave of volunteers who have taken up the call to arms to support the NHS, with retired healthcare workers joining volunteers from all walks of life in support.
The Suffolk GP Federation, which is assisting in the rollout alongside the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, had said last year that the call to arms could prove a "significant challenge" and that "several hundred" people would be needed.
Lisa Llewellyn, workforce lead at the Suffolk and North Essex Integrated Care System – responsible for the rollout in Suffolk and Essex, said she is optimistic as the county comes together for one "final push".
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Although she was unable to give a number on how many people have volunteered so far, Mrs Llewelyn said it has been "amazing" to see so many people get involved.
Mrs Llewelyn said: "It has been absolutely amazing. This is a moment in history – people who are helping us deliver this vaccine are making history.
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"We've had local authorities get in touch offering the support of staff members who are not working and have had retired healthcare workers also offer their services, alongside full-time NHS staff offering up their weekends. My background is in nursing and I will help deliver the vaccine in my own time.
"It is great to see people uniting to help deliver this vaccine together.
"We would welcome anyone who wants to get involved and help – our doors are open."
Mrs Llewelyn said people from all working backgrounds are able to put their names forward, with the positions currently open including healthcare assistants, admin support and stewards.
While the call is being made for people to volunteer, a number roles are paid, mostly in clinical and administrative roles – with hourly rates for immunisers understood to be £12, while GPs will receive £48 an hour for their services at Suffolk GP Federation vaccination centres.
Paramedics, floor managers, senior stewards and nurses are also among the paid positions. Full training will be offered to all volunteers, and personal protective equipment (PPE) will also be supplied.
While spaces in the "massive operation" are continuing to be filled, Mrs Llewelyn added that is important more people sign up to help in the event that other volunteers or workers fall ill or are forced into self-isolation.
The exact locations of most of the vaccination centres have so far not been revealed by the NHS, with the only known centres outside of hospitals and GP surgeries being Trinity Park – operated by the Suffolk GP Federation – and Gainsborough Sports Centre in Ipswich.
Health bosses are continuing to remind people not to call vaccination centres or turn up without appointments, to ensure they are not overwhelmed with enquiries. Those eligible for the vaccine will be contacted directly.
Those who are interested in volunteering at the centres can do so by visiting the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust website.