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Kirklees council: 'We've set up free transport service to get frail residents to vaccination clinics'

Kirklees council has worked in a variety of ways to provide support to the vaccination programme, involving a range of different teams from public health to the communications and IT teams.

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This is part of a series of case-studies published on 3 February 2021 

  • Provided logistical help to get centres up-and-running and keep them operational, including collecting vaccine supplies trapped in heavy snow
  • Redeployed staff to vaccination centres to help monitor patients and help with queues
  • Worked with voluntary sector to set up free transport for patients to get vaccinated

Local context

The West Yorkshire borough of Kirklees is home to 440,000. The main town and administrative centre is Huddersfield.

By late January there were five GP-led vaccination centres and three pharmacy led clinics. A mass testing centre at the John Smith’s Stadium – home to Huddersfield’s football and rugby sides – is also due to open soon.

The council has worked in a variety of ways to provide support to the vaccination programme, involving a range of different teams from public health to the communications and IT teams.

The logistics – from dealing with snowfall to helping set up the centres

Setting up vaccination centres is a major logistical challenge – but it one the council has played a part in meeting, said Head of Strategic Communications Marcus Bowell.

“As one of the first local authorities to sign up for community testing, we’ve been able to rely on the lessons we’ve learned, and the infrastructure we’ve built, to help local NHS partners.

“On creating a Covid-safe environment, connecting venues online and offering staffing and logistical assistance, we’ve been able to support NHS colleagues in their monumental challenge.”

The NHS and council worked together to select vaccination sites and then to get them ready for the vaccines being rolled out.

Mr Bowell said: “Our infection prevention and control team provided advice about the steps needed to reduce infection risks and we have also helped with IT connectivity and getting hold of kit and PPE which we had needed for community testing.

Similar work is now being put into helping set up a mass testing centre at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Logistical support has also been provided in other ways. The recent bad weather, which has included heavy snowfall and flooding, meant the council had to play a key role in ensuring the clinics could keep running.

When it snowed in early January, 1,400 doses got stranded in Keighley, to the north of Kirklees. The council was able to rely on mutual aid from neighbouring Bradford Council to deploy a 4x4 vehicle to go and collect the vaccine and get it to the vaccination centres.

Shortly after that there was heavy rain. The council placed spotters around the vaccination centres to monitor the water levels in drains and gulleys. “We had to make sure we had plans in place in case the areas around them flooded. We did not want to risk damage to the centres and disruption to vaccination,” added Mr Bowell.

And going forward, he said there is still much more than can be done. “Setting up the sites is just the first part of the challenge. We see the council playing a key role over the next few months in building confidence in communities about vaccinations and supporting residents to protect themselves and their communities.

During the pandemic, we’ve built new communication channels with residents and local organisations. We hope to use those tools to encourage the highest possible level of vaccine uptake across Kirklees.”

Redeploying staff to work at the vaccination centres

The council employs nine social prescribing link workers who are each aligned to one of the primary care networks in the borough. They are now working in the vaccination centres providing a range of support, including carrying out pre-vaccination assessments and monitoring patients afterwards.

Library staff have also been redeployed to provide admin support and queue busting as well as members of the community plus team, who are also supporting with the transport, patient safety checks and welcoming patients. More than 30 staff are now helping out in some way via mutual aid.

The council, with its close links to the community and voluntary sector, has also been able to recruit volunteers to help manage queues. This close working relationship has also meant a free transport services has been able to be established for patients who need help getting to a vaccination centre.

A system has now been set up which means when GP practices book patients in for the jab they ask them if they are able to get to the centre. If they cannot, their details are passed on to the council.

The council has a team of drivers – staff who have been redeployed from outdoor education services – who can pick up patients, while support is also provided by the Denby Dale Centre, a charity that works with people who have dementia. By the middle of January, lifts had been provided to more than 70 patients.

Head of Local Integrated Partnerships Carol Gilchrist said: “The people getting vaccinated first can be quite frail. Getting to a centre may not be that easy so we felt it was important to get something in place to support them. They get picked up and driven to the centre and then returned home.

All the drivers are DBS checked and have weekly Covid tests and the transport is Covid-secure. It has provided a really vital function for some of our most vulnerable citizens. These are 70 people who may not have been vaccinated if it wasn’t for this service.”

Dr Burhan Ahmed, the clinical director for Greenwood primary care network, said the support provided by the council and volunteers was vital. “Some patients have difficulties accessing the vaccination centre. The transport service is an excellent way of ensuring all patients can access vaccinations and nobody misses out.”

Contact details

Marcus Bowell

Head of Strategic Communications

Kirkless Council

[email protected]