Resetting the relationship between local and national government. Read our Local Government White Paper

Bristol City Council: bridging the gap between NHS and community

The council has worked closely with the local community since the start of the vaccination programme to encourage good uptake.

View allPublic health articles

This is part of a series of case-studies published on 1 April 2021 

  • Worked closely with community leaders to promote vaccination among ethnic minority groups via social media and Q&A-style webinars
  • Pop-up clinics run in areas with lower uptake – more than 450 people came forward in just two days at one clinic held at a mosque
  • Key to the success of these clinics has been the ability for local community leaders to book people in themselves
  • Council now working with other groups, including the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers to offer vaccination

Local context

Bristol is home to 470,000 people. One in six is from an ethnic minority. 

The main mass vaccination centre is based at Ashton Gate, home to Bristol City Football Club, and there is a network of 19 GP vaccination sites across Bristol. Community vaccination centres in non-NHS premises have been established to improve local access.

The council has worked closely with the local community since the start of the vaccination programme to encourage good uptake.

Using trusted leaders in the community

One of the key groups that has been integral to the work are the 10 community champions, drawn from community organisations across the city.

Council Health Equity and Vaccination Lead Carol Slater said: “We’ve worked with community leaders on inequalities for years, so we had a good foundation from which to work when the pandemic hit. They have helped us throughout, getting key messages out to their communities.

“So as soon as the vaccination programme began being rolled out, we tapped into this. 

“They have helped get community leaders filming themselves getting vaccinated to try to create a positive atmosphere around vaccination and address the significant levels of misinformation in circulation. The people who run local Facebook and WhatsApp groups have also been important – they are very influential, and it is a great way of reaching out to people.

“There are many people out there who have doubts – they don’t know whether to get vaccinated, and don’t trust the national messages or just need to hear the facts from a trusted voice.

“We have had an amazing response from community leaders who have recorded themselves in the clinics having the vaccination and promoting widely to their networks on YouTube. Groups of community leaders have also toured the Ashton Gate mass vaccination centre and had photos taken there to encourage uptake amongst BAME communities.”

Addressing concerns through webinars

A series of Q&A-style webinars have taken place, some led by the council, and others designed by community groups and supported by council teams.

The first council myths and misinformation webinar took place on 26 January and was attended by 500 people - 40 per cent of whom were from BAME backgrounds. 

Ms Slater said: “It worked very well and has prompted us to offer support to the community to host more. Webinars have varied in size since.

We have done some with local churches and community groups with just 20 people, and others have attracted 100 or more. GPs, primarily from those communities, have been proactive in jointly participating in webinars with community leaders and the council to address people’s concerns. It has really helped people gain trust in what is being said.

Lots of different questions come up – we have had people ask about fertility, whether it is has a microchip, whether animal products have been used and how it was made so quickly.

“The issue of blood clots and the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccination has begun to arise the past week or so. There is, of course, a risk that people will not turn up for appointments due to these new concerns.  

“It is good that people are asking these questions – we would rather that than them just not engage at all. It’s the ones that are not turning up that we worry most about.

“There is a particular suspicion in the black community. They question whether it is an experimental thing. They say that they’ve been experimented on in the past, or the Bible says we shouldn’t be doing this and a host of other concerns.” 

The council’s team of Covid marshals have also played a key role in tackling this, together with community leaders. “They are working with businesses and see the leaflets and literature going around - they are our eyes and ears on the ground.

They let us know so we are aware of what sort of things are being circulated. It has helped us prepare for addressing concerns the webinars and for the pop-up clinics,” added Ms Slater.

How pop-up clinics have made a difference

As the vaccination programme has been rolled out, Bristol has started to run some pop-up clinics in mosques and community centres. So far six clinics have taken place, which have been led by the NHS and organised with the help of the council’s communities teams and their community networks.

Ms Slater said: “The data analysis considered the distance from the vaccination centres in areas of low uptake. We used our flu data to have a loo and talked to community leaders and community champions about it, and then planned where was best to put them. 

“But it is not just about location. What was key was that local leaders and community champions had the ability to book people in direct. So the local pastor and imams and trusted people would get a block of 10-20 appointments and they would fill them. I know of some who spent half an hour talking to people to assure and answer questions and concerns.

The results have been clear. During one recent two-day clinic held at a mosque more than 450 people turned up to get the jab. 

The engagement work is also being extended to reach out to other communities. Ms Slater said: “We have worked with homeless people, sex workers and asylum seekers. The vaccination teams have gone out with the council teams that work with these individuals, into hostels and at times on to the streets to offer the vaccine.

“And this is where the council can help the NHS. We can bridge the gap with the community. I spent 30 years working in the NHS before moving to the local authority and it’s clear to me that local government have the networks and relationships that allow this kind of work to happen.”

Dr Huzaifa Adamali, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at North Bristol NHS Trust and Covid vaccination clinical lead, said the council had played a vital role, demonstrating “excellent leadership” to raise awareness of the vaccine programme.

“They have worked tirelessly and their stellar efforts have resulted in excellent outcomes for the city of Bristol. Grassroots educational programmes and pop-up vaccination clinics have resulted in increased uptake of the vaccine in all communities and have ensured they remain safe. I would like to thank them and pray their endeavours always be successful.”