National awards recognise efforts to protect vulnerable communities from COVID-19

Efforts to reach the parts of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent others couldn’t has helped get vaccinators shortlisted for a national award.

The multi-agency approach by councils, the NHS and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service targeted communities where take-up of COVID-19 vaccinations was known to be low. These included a number of communities where English is not the first language, people who are not registered with a GP surgery, and people who are homeless.

A roving team, known as the Targeted Vaccination Team, were able to go out and launch pinpoint operations to make sure that no-one was left behind in the quest to get everyone protected. Examples include Dearnsdale Fruit Farm near Stafford, and Equality House Community Centre in Hanley.

The work has now earned Together We’re Better, the health and care partnership for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, a shortlisting for the Partnership Awards run by national trade publication HSJ (Health Service Journal).

Neil Carr, Senior Responsible Officer for the vaccination programme across the area, said: “This was total teamwork by all our partner organisations to reach communities who are more vulnerable because vaccination take-up is poor for whatever reason.

“As our councils and GP surgeries know their neighbourhoods inside out, this gave us good intelligence. People in the groups we were targeting will not generally book an appointment so we need to go to them. We even visited fruit farms who employ large numbers of seasonal workers, largely from Eastern Europe.

“Logistic support was then provided by the Fire and Rescue Service – and this was absolutely invaluable.”

Rich Williams, Station Manager at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, who is the service’s COVID-19 tactical cell lead, said: “We are so pleased to have been shortlisted for this award.

“We have been happy to support the NHS vaccination roll-out by ensuring our sites have been accessible to members of the public looking to get their jabs and boosters.

“This support wouldn’t have been possible without the work of colleagues including retired firefighters, volunteers and fire service staff responding to the call to action and doing their best to make sure the people of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire are as protected as much as possible from this virus – so thank you all for your commitment and dedication.”

Chief Fire Officer, Rob Barber, added: “Being shortlisted for this award is testimony to the hard work and dedication the NHS and fire service personnel have done throughout the pandemic, working together to do the best for the communities they serve.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that partnership working is key to delivering really positive outcomes, and I’m proud that we have been able to achieve these outcomes for those who live and work in our region.”

 Cllr Abi Brown, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “It has certainly been a tough year for everyone. Throughout the pandemic, Stoke-on-Trent City Council accelerated our partnership working across Staffordshire to ensure that we protected the most vulnerable residents and communities, whilst maintaining all of our essential services.    

“The multi-agency approach has proven to be fundamental in shaping our local outbreak control planning, sharing information, and helping us to take swift and effective action.”

Alan White, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “Being short-listed for this award, really is a testament to the hard work that has been done by staff behind the scenes to make it as easy as possible to get these game-changing and life-saving vaccines.”