Gateshead council: Using the making every contact count approach

Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital is part of the network of vaccination hubs. There are also five local vaccination centres, while Gateshead residents also have access to the mass vaccination centre at Newcastle’s Centre for Life.

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This is part of a series of case-studies published on 5 February 2021.  

  • Gateshead has worked with its network of 40 Making Every Contact Count partners to promote vaccination
  • NHS staff who took part in vaccine trials have also been recruited, answering questions submitted by the public
  • It came after the council has helped the NHS find the sites for clinics, prepare them and kept them running during the winter

Local context

The metropolitan borough of Gateshead is home to more than 200,000 people in the Tyne and Wear region.

The area’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital is part of the network of vaccination hubs. There are also five local vaccination centres, while Gateshead residents also have access to the mass vaccination centre at Newcastle’s Centre for Life.

The making every contact count approach

Gateshead has been a big advocate of the Making Every Contact Count (MECC) approach. Over the past three years the council has worked with more than 40 organisations from across the public, private and voluntary sectors from Citizen’s Advice to local arts groups.

Staff have been trained in how to offer brief advice and interventions on everything from healthy weight and nutrition to promoting good mental health. With the vaccination programme being rolled out, the council saw this network of MECC champions as the ideal way of helping address vaccine hesitancy.

MECC Development Lead Louise Harlanderson said: “We started getting asked questions back in October and November. The trial results were beginning to be published and people wanted to know more. We quickly came to the conclusion that we should equip as many people as possible to be able to talk about vaccines.

“We have built up some really good relationships over the years through the Making Every Contact Count initiative. People all across Gateshead have got involved and so we thought they would be ideally placed to help provide trusted information about vaccination.

“Of course, there is very little face-to-face contact at the moment, but they are still having contact with people digitally or talking to people on the phone.”

Gateshead started by developing a power point presentation with some basic information and over the past few months the language and way it has been presented has been perfected.

Ms Harlanderson said: “There has been a lot of technical, confusing language thrown around. For example, we refer to the Pfizer vaccine as an mRNA vaccine, but no-one knows what that is. You have to use language people understand and can relate to – and that is what we tried to do.

“And by distributing the slides to our MECC partners we were able to perfect the messages. The feedback we got was that we needed to go back to the basics – even just explaining what a vaccine is and does was important so we have been developing our materials as we go.”

This in turn has allowed MECC partners to develop their own materials tailored to the groups they work with. An example of this is a video produced by the Lawnmowers Theatre Group, that works with people with learning disabilities.

Working with leaders in the community

As the messaging has developed, the slides and videos have also been distributed across the area’s Covid champions. This is a network of community leaders from faith groups and community organisations who have been helping give clear messages throughout the pandemic.

Director of Public Health Alice Wiseman said “These champions are vital in reaching out to communities that traditional services cannot. They are trusted and known in the communities and have a reach into certain communities that we don’t – that is going to be vital in addressing some of the inequalities that exist. We want this to be just the start – with the government’s Covid champions funding we would hope to get to over 500 in the coming weeks and months.”

The council has also looked to work with other trusted and influential figures in the community. Ms Wiseman said: “Behavioural insights works had shown that health and care staff were the most trusted individuals and some of our local NHS staff were involved in the Oxford-AstraZeneca trials so we got them on board and asked people to put forward questions for them to answer.”

The video – featuring Caroline Wroe and Chris Speed from the North East’s National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network – addresses everything from the safety of the vaccine and how they were made to what impact they are likely to have.

Ms Wiseman said: “It is a really clear video – and I think hearing from those who were involved in the trials lends a lot of weight to what they are saying. But we are aware that there are still some people not coming forward.

We have had good uptake so far, but we want to do everything we can to encourage people to come forward. We are going to be including some questions about vaccination in the next household survey we do to try to get more insight into some of the barriers.”

Helping with the logistics – from repairs to gritting

Ms Wiseman said the council has also helped with some of the logistics of setting up and running the vaccination sites.  “We worked closely with the NHS to find the sites – at one we even did some repair work to get it ready and some of our leisure centre staff have been redeployed to do marshalling.”

And as the winter weather threatened to cause problems keeping clinics running, the council’s gritting service went the extra mile to ensure they could keep running.

Environment and Fleet Management Service Director Philip Hindmarsh said the vaccination centres were all on routes that were already a priority for gritting, but his team took some extra measures.

We made sure that every vaccination centre was supplied with a grit pile so staff there could ensure safe pedestrian access for people attending appointments and we also added the car parks to the gritting regime using small-transit-sized vehicles because of the access problems.”