Over the next four weekends, a team of 22 community pharmacists will visit around 1,500 people who are registered as housebound with their GP practice.
Louise Lydon, pictured, a pharmacist in Jarrow and Secretary of Gateshead and South Tyneside Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: “We’ve had a fantastic response from pharmacists – there’s a real passion from everyone to play our part.
“Pharmacies are very busy during the pandemic, but we can reach hundreds of people in a weekend without affecting our main service.
“It’s been intense at times with a lot to work through, but it feels like an honour to be involved in something so life-changing. We’re really excited to get started.”
Local practices have provided lists of housebound patients, and the team has arranged them in local clusters to minimise travel time. Carers who are ‘house-tied’ – people who find it difficult to leave home because of their caring role – can also get the vaccine this way.
Dr Anji Curry, a GP in South Shields, added: “This is a really unique approach – we’re not aware of any other areas delivering the vaccine this way. Here in South Tyneside, our community pharmacists are very closely integrated with local practices, so they are well placed to play such a key role and reduce some of the pressure on other parts of our health system.”
The role of pharmacists has changed a lot in recent years, as they work more closely with GPs and help patients in new ways. This includes GP2Pharmacy – another scheme unique to South Tyneside – which enables GPs to refer patients for a consultation with a pharmacist for conditions like skin, ear or throat infections.
“It’s a real team effort – the idea came out of our regular discussions with GPs, the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Council,” said Louise Lydon. “I’d like to thank all the pharmacists for everything they are doing, as they are so committed and keen to help.
“Patients will get a phone call to notify them three or four days before their jab. The pharmacists will arrive wearing NHS ID and will be happy to help if you have questions.”
The vaccine is free, and only available on the NHS. Anyone asking for payment for the vaccine is committing a crime. The NHS will never ask you to press a button on your keypad or send a text to confirm you want the vaccine, and will never ask for payment or for your bank details. If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up.
If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the police online or by calling 101.