Gloucestershire county council: how the fire service lent a helping hand to the vaccination programme

Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) which is part of Gloucestershire County Council, set up two fire stations as vaccination centres with crews responsible for setting up the clinics each morning, helping to vaccinate nearly 2,500 people a day.

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This is part of a series of case-studies published on 7 April 2021 

  • The fire service in Gloucestershire is run by the county council
  • It has proved to be a key partner throughout the pandemic, supporting with food supplies, PPE distribution and testing
  • Two fire stations have been used as vaccination centres with crews responsible for setting up the clinics each morning
  • Between them they can vaccinate nearly 2,500 people a day

Local context

Gloucestershire is home to more than 630,000 people. They are covered by a network of 11 local vaccination centres. The local hubs are mainly run from local health centres, GP centres and community hospitals. But two of the sites are fire stations.

Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS), which is part of Gloucestershire County Council, has been a key partner during the pandemic.

In the early days, crews helped supply PPE to community health settings and deliver food supplies to vulnerable people Later on they supported the military who were running mobile testing units as well as delivering testing kits to care homes and returning them to labs for processing.

So when the vaccination programme was launched, it was only natural that they were going to be involved.

Turning fire stations into vaccination clinics

Kev Adcock, a senior manager at GFRS, said: “As soon as the planning started for the vaccination programme, we knew immediately we could play a role. We had already hosted drive-through flu vaccination clinics at our stations and we knew how efficient this model would be.

“We worked with our local NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups to organise and provide a safe walk-through service that allowed the fire station to operate without impact on our response obligations.”

The first fire station chosen to administer the Covid vaccine was Cheltenham East fire station with jabs starting there on 16 December. It can vaccinate 1,450 people a day.

Then on 20 January a second site opened at Gloucester South fire station. It initially focussed on vaccinations for frontline health and care staff, but has now started immunising members of the public. It has a capacity to vaccinate 900 people a day.

The vaccination areas are in the appliance bays where the fire appliances are kept overnight. Each morning before the vaccination clinics start the fire crews move the vehicle outside and set up the clinics.

Mr Adcock said: “We clean everything down and set up the booths and put out the seating. It takes about 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes to take down in the evening. 

“We had to work closely with our partners to ensure a safe and efficient system for administering the vaccine. 

“It meant changes in the way our firefighters worked on the station, but we made clear boundaries to avoid vaccinators and clinical staff mixing in the same area as we wanted to ensure our risk to the is reduced and so we can maintain an operational response.”

The vaccination teams are supplied by the local primary care networks, while the council has organised volunteers to act as marshals.

It has worked really well – and if demand requires it we know we could use other fire stations for vaccination. We are delighted to be playing a part in this important programme.

Patients ‘love coming here’

Patients who have been vaccinated at the sites are full of praise too. One said: “It was very good, very helpful and very professional. It really is quite extraordinary.” Meanwhile, another described the venue as “fantastic” and “really convenient”.

Dr Cameron Jackson, the GP lead for the Cheltenham East Fire Station vaccination centre, said it was a “very exciting” project to be involved with.

“We are extremely proud of the service that we've developed at the fire station to provide this vaccine. It is a great location and have got a very good service together to deliver it. It is very efficient and the patients love coming here.”

Sarah Scott, Executive Director of Adult Social Care and Public Health at Gloucestershire County Council, said” “Everyone has pulled together in the county to respond to the incredible challenges that the pandemic has brought. 

“Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service have really pulled the stops out - taking on different roles and making fire stations in the heart of communities available for the rapid rollout of vaccinations.”