St Thomas Medical Group (STMG) consisting of St Thomas Health Centre, Exwick Heath Centre, and Pathfinder Village Surgery, has teamed up with Exeter City Council and Stagecoach South West to provide a creative and innovative solution to safeguard their patients who are eligible for flu vaccinations; which is believed to be the first of its kind in Devon.
Established in 1969, STMG has a total of 40,000 patients including the Student Health Centre on campus at the University of Exeter. This year, as the Government widens the eligibility criteria, the GP’s will need to administer injections to 10,500 patients against their average number of 8,000. During Covid-19, the rooms at STMG’s health centres are not big enough to deliver a course of injections of this magnitude to their patients in a safe way and allow protection for the staff. In these unprecedented times the forward-thinking practice needed to come up with an alternative way of vaccinating their eligible patients and, as a result, have been working in partnership with Exeter City Council and Stagecoach.
STMG for the first time in its 50-year history is going off-site to implement a vaccination delivery programme at Exeter City Council’s expansive Matford Centre based on Marsh Barton, with Stagecoach adding extra vehicles on the bus route.
Dr Emma Green, Managing Partner for STMG explains: “Our St Thomas surgeries are too small to allow for social distancing on a large scale during this crisis, so we needed to go offsite to a spacious and well-ventilated area. An increase in the number of patients we expect to book flu jabs this autumn means the vaccines are more important than ever to provide immunity to individuals, and the UK populate. We have also taken into consideration that people who are eligible are more likely to suffer severe harm from the Coronavirus.”
She adds: We are keen to vaccinate as many of our Exeter population as we can in a socially distanced way and want people to help us, to help them. This is the reason we have set up this initiative to get to a wider community. Following discussions with Exeter City Council, the Matford Centre has been identified as an ideal venue for this process, providing a safe environment for our patients and also protect the 30 members of staff who will be administering the jabs.”
The many benefits of using the Matford Centre includes a large and well-ventilated indoor space ideal for social distancing, plus a warm and dry environment whatever the weather. There will be a ‘no queuing system’ with constant patient flows, ample parking and the centre is conveniently located next to the Park & Ride facility on Marsh Barton. And continuing to keep it local, the STMG team has hired two portable fridges sourced from Exeter-based business ‘Hitch-a-Fridge’. “Refrigeration is vital to store the vaccines at a stable temperature to ensure they do not degrade, and the bonus is that these fridges can be driven straight into the building before being set up.” Explains Dr Green.
Initially three dates have been identified for the programme to tie in with the vaccine delivery:
Over 65 - Saturday 19th Sept and Saturday 3rd October
Under 65 - Wednesday 21st October
Stagecoach operates local bus services across the South West, connecting communities in towns and cities across the region. The company has agreed to increase the number of buses from
the Green Park and Ride which operates past the Matford Centre and will be adding more buses to the current 20-minute frequency to and from the High Street on the days of clinics to help passengers get to the venue, making this a truly City-wide collaboration.
*(see diagram for relevant bus routes).
Mike Watson Managing Director at Stagecoach South West said: "We are really pleased to be able to support St Thomas Medical Centre in delivering a vital service to our local community. Passengers can catch buses to the flu clinic from Exeter and beyond with great transport links to the Matford Centre, which we hope will make it easy and accessible for them."
Dr Emma Green said: “Our eligible number of patients for flu vaccination in 2020 has grown from average numbers of 8,000 to 10,500 and with demand on Primary Care already stretched we needed to ensure vaccinations could be administered in an environment that maximises safety for all, during this global pandemic. There are further dates in development, dependent on vaccine availability.”
Summing up Dr Green concludes: “It has been a rewarding experience linking with the City Council and Stagecoach to find a safe way forward in these challenging times. By adopting this collaborative approach, we have been able to achieve an integrated solution, which would not have been achievable without good communication, joined-up thinking and working together to ensure the protection of the residents of Exeter.”
For further information visit the following links:
Over 65’s: https://www.stthomasmedicalgroup.co.uk/flu-information-for-over-65s-only/
Under 65’s: https://www.stthomasmedicalgroup.co.uk/under-65s-only-flu-information/