Your NHS needs you - plea for Norfolk and Waveney booster jab volunteers

Nurse with Covid vaccine

Health bosses have appealed for help to deliver the Covid-19 booster roll-out. - Credit: PA

A plea has been issued for people to help the NHS in Norfolk and Waveney hit the government's ambitious target to accelerate the roll-out of Covid-19 booster jabs.

The appeal for volunteers and retired professionals to help deliver the booster jab roll-out comes as patients are warned some GP appointments may be delayed while the NHS tries to meet the government's target of offering boosters to all over 18s by the end of the year.

Health bosses at Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group are appealing for volunteers and NHS reservists to bolster the programme as they prepare to ramp up vaccine delivery.

Vaccination clinics will be extended into evenings and weekends to provide hundreds more pre-bookable booster slots.

Currently those aged 30 plus can book an appointment for three months after their second dose and those aged 18 plus will be able to book from Wednesday.

Howard Martin, director of population health management and health inequalities at Norfolk and Waveney CCG, said: "“We are focused on fully optimising capacity at our current sites as this is the most effective and efficient way to ramp up quickly.

"We’re pulling out all the stops with extended opening times, additional bookable appointments at community pharmacies and even more vaccinations provided through GP practices - so we can deliver the number of vaccines needed to meet the national ambition by the end of December.

"We are appealing for additional NHS reservists to step forward in a variety of paid roles and join us in delivering this mammoth task – if you have the skills and the time we would love to hear from you.

Most Read

"By stepping forward again or for the first time, you can help support your NHS and its fantastic staff who are giving so much of themselves. Please don’t delay, if you can help, even if it’s just for a few clinic sessions or hours a week, please sign up.”

Volunteers are also needed to help vaccination clinics to run smoothly and safely.

The health and care system is also seeking volunteers to support those who are self-isolating by providing doorstep deliveries of food and medicines to those unable to leave their home.

NHS reservists are those with clinical or administration skills that can fulfil urgently needed paid positions.

That includes those who have retired from clinical practice or whose registration has lapsed, as well as those currently in training for clinical roles.

More than 90 reservists have already provided more than 17,300 hours of service and around 470 volunteers have given more than 28,500 hours of support to 50 vaccination clinic sites across Norfolk and Waveney over the last year.

Alan Hopley from Voluntary Norfolk, said: “We are so immensely grateful to everyone that has come forward to help, but the job is not yet done.

"If you can help please get in touch with our Covid Response Volunteer team now. Just one shift at a vaccination centre near to your home could make all the difference to a neighbour's wellbeing.”

How to help

• Registering as an NHS reservist (paid sessions) –the CCG is seeking registered vaccinators, unregistered vaccinators (clinical professionals whose registration may have lapsed) and corporate and clinical administrators - visit wecaretogethernw.co.uk/your-career/job-opportunities/

• Emailing Voluntary Norfolk at covid19responseteam@voluntarynorfolk.org.uk or making an online application at www.voluntarynorfolk.org.uk/covid-response

• Registering to become an NHS Volunteer Responder with the Royal Voluntary Service at www.nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/i-want-to-volunteer/volunteer-roles

Existing volunteers are already being contacted.

Health bosses say vaccination clinics will be extended into evenings and weekends to provide hundreds more pre-bookable booster slots.

Currently those aged 30 plus can book an appointment for three months after their second dose and those aged 18 plus will be able to book from Wednesday.

Pressure on GPs

Health bosses insisted the region's GPs were not being told to cancel all appointments, although they said some services would be put on hold.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said some NHS appointments would need to be postponed.

Coronavirus vaccine

Norfolk still has only a single identified case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. - Credit: Denise Bradley

A spokeswoman for Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group said: "GP practices have been asked by NHS England to provide additional support to help the NHS significantly increase the number of boosters we can deliver and - whilst this may mean that some routine primary care services are put on hold in the short term – all GP practices will still offer urgent or same day appointments if this is the advice following telephone triage or clinical review.  

“The emergency department at the hospital is experiencing high demand and patients may have to wait a long time before being seen.

"Please only attend the hospital in a genuine health care emergency.  If you are unsure please call NHS 111 (free) or go to NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk.”

Dr Tim Morton, chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee, said: "It's going to be quite a challenge to undertake the sheer numbers of booster vaccines, especially at a time when GPs are working at full capacity, just meeting non Covid demand.

"On top of that is the fact many practices like mine are still giving Covid and flu vaccines.

"Also, there's the fact we have a workforce which is psychologically quite exhausted."

Dr Tim Morton of Beccles Medical centre Byline: Sonya Duncan

Dr Morton called on the public to treat general practice staff with more respect - Credit: Archant

Dr Morton, a partner at Beccles Medical Centre, said: "What I am saying to patients is that we are there to treat you. We will be seeing all urgent cases.

"We will be assessing all other cases, so we don't put patients at risk.

"But patients will have to understand there will be more triage and, for example, it might be by phone.

"Less urgent, chronic, cases might be delayed, but all efforts will be made to ensure risk is minimised."

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn
Accident and Emergency entrance

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn Accident and Emergency entrance - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Amid concerns extra pressure on doctors' practices could lead to more people heading to the accident and emergency departments of the region's hospitals, a spokesperson for the NHS in Norfolk and Waveney stressed GP appointments would still be available.

He said: "Emergency and urgent care services continue to remain extremely busy and emergency department staff are working closely with NHS partners and the ambulance service to make sure patients are seen as quickly as possible.

"Patients can help by contacting NHS 111 first if they need medical advice and seeking help from their community pharmacist or walk-in centre for minor injuries and ailments.

"GP appointments are still available and we’d urge everyone to be patient and respectful to all NHS staff while the Covid-19 vaccination programme continues at pace."

Other developments

Health secretary Sajid Javid said some NHS appointments would have to be postponed for the jab roll-out to take place.

Health secretary Sajid Javid

Health secretary Sajid Javid - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

He said: "I acknowledge that our national mission comes with some difficult trade offs. We are redeploying NHS staff away from non-urgent services, this means that for the next two weeks all primary care services will focus on urgent clinical needs and vaccines and some urgent appointments and elective surgeries may be postponed until the New Year while we prioritise getting people the booster."

He said there were 4,713 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, while the UK Health Security Agency estimates the current number of daily infections is around 200,000.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Monday July 12, 2021. - Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Prime minister Boris Johnson said at least one person in the UK with the Omicron variant had died - and refused to rule out imposing further restrictions.