Hundreds of people have now received their COVID-19 vaccination in rural Rother after a new local vaccination service has now gone live.
The service began vaccinating people at Etchingham Village Hall on Wednesday 20 January.
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust is working in partnership with the following GP practices to run the service:
· Fairfield Surgery, Burwash
· Ferry Road Health Centre, Rye
· Martins Oak Surgery, Battle
· Northiam and Broad Oak Surgery
· Oldwood Surgery, Robertsbridge /Battle Health Centre
· Rye Medical Centre
· Sedlescombe and Westfield Surgeries
The service is offering vaccine appointments to registered patients at these GP practices in line with the national priority groups, starting with those who are over the age of 80.
It is a real community partnership on site with volunteers from the local area, the fire service providing help, and support from the local primary school to provide additional storage space.
Dr Camilla Pashley, GP at Sedlescombe and Westfield Surgeries and one of the Clinical Directors for Rural Rother Primary Care Network, said: “We are very proud to see this essential service go live after so much hard work, planning and commitment from our GP practices, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust and other local partners. To play a part in the biggest immunisation programme undertaken by the NHS is an honour and a privilege and we look forward to welcoming local people through the doors of Etchingham Village Hall to receive their vaccinations.
“Please help your local practices by not contacting them directly; they will contact you as soon as an appointment is available for you. We are also asking people not to turn up early for their appointments. Arriving on time will help us manage the number of people at the venue and help keep our patients and staff safe.”
James Bowey, an airline pilot who joined the NHS as a result of COVID-19’s impact on the airline industry, is managing the site at Etchingham. He said: “First and foremost I want to pay tribute to the amazing teams at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust who have worked tirelessly to set up Etchingham Village Hall as a vaccination centre for this rural community.
“It is a privilege to be involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme and we look forward to welcoming patients over the coming days and weeks to give them this vaccine.”
The GP practice teams have been identifying their patients who are eligible at this stage and appointments have and will continue to be booked in over the coming weeks.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccination is one of the best defences against the virus. It should help reduce the rates of serious illness, reduce pressure on our NHS and social care services, and, above all, save lives. We encourage anyone who is contacted by their GP practice, either by phone, email or letter, to take up the offer of an appointment.
We recognise that at the current time, with one site at Etchingham, some people will have to travel further than others to get their vaccination depending on where they live in the local area.
Please be aware that under government guidelines a family member or friend is permitted to take a person to their COVID-19 vaccine appointment, which is classed as an exemption as it is a ‘medical appointment’. Guidance on how to do this safely is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers#private-cars-and-other-vehicles (scroll down to ‘Car sharing’).
Information about community transport can be found on the East Sussex County Council website: https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/public/communitytransport/guide/about/. Other options are being explored for those who cannot call upon friends and family.
This is a fast moving programme and there may an opportunity to provide the vaccine from more sites across our communities very soon. However, until then, Etchingham is our current site for delivery of the vaccine in this area so we urge anyone who is offered an appointment there to take it up if they can.
The location of the GP-led vaccination service does not affect the speed by which people living in the Rural Rother area will receive their vaccination. The timing for when people will be able to get their vaccination depends largely on the availability of the vaccine and the priority group they are in.