As the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement to lockdown during 2020, SCW's Improving Immunisation Uptake team was considering how to keep the important process of childhood immunisations going.
How can primary care be supported to maintain and improve childhood immunisation uptake rates during a pandemic, when practices face a multitude of challenges in delivering key services?
The IIU team worked in partnership with practices and parents to ensure the national childhood immunisation programme continued to be delivered during lockdown. The IIU team’s support included virtual face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, and email contact with practices and parents.
Outcome and customer benefits realised
- The IIU team worked in partnership with NHSE to develop guidance for practices re priorities during the pandemic.
- Key challenges affecting uptake rates at local and regional levels were escalated to NHSEI so that they could be addressed nationally.
- Updating of practice websites to provide additional information for patients regarding key services such as immunisations and signposting to other forms of support.
- Additional immunisation clinics put in place due to spare capacity provided by some “routine” work being put on hold early in the pandemic.
- Neighbouring practices “sharing” vaccination staff to cover sickness/shielding or applying for additional funding for locum staff.
- Staff redeployed from one area of work within a practice to another eg. Reception staff investigating and actioning children with outstanding immunisations. Staff reported that as parents were at home due to lockdown, contacting them was much easier.
- Working with parents to ensure those having difficulty registering births, do not then face further challenges getting their child immunised.
- Parents were able to contact the IIU team for advice when they couldn’t contact their own practice.
- Practices reviewed their processes and adapted them where necessary.
- Communication between practices and parents improved.
- The IIU team also participated in virtual large-scale statutory training for practice staff and wider healthcare professionals involved with immunisations.
Many practices have developed new ways of delivering key services such as vaccination programmes or adapted current processes during COVID 19. The lessons learned during this rapid reconfiguration of immunisation services could help to identify opportunities for practices to further enhance and improve other key public health initiatives such as seasonal flu, screening, and health checks in the future.
If you would like more information on the Improving Immunisation Uptake Service, please contact the team via email or telephone.