Letter: vaccination for privately and self employed Group 2 social care workers is urgently needed

By Stroud Coronavirus Community Response 

Below we’ve reproduced the text of a letter sent by SCCR yesterday, 20th January 2021, to: Councillor Mark Hawthorne (Leader of Gloucestershire County Council), Katie Hopgood, Consultant in Public Health at Gloucestershire County Council, and the six Gloucestershire MPs (and copied to other interested parties who we have previously been in contact with regarding the issue).

Update: A day after this letter was sent on January 20th, Gloucestershire County Council have provided more information on the process of social care employees accessing vaccines. This information can be found here.

It is our understanding that Gloucestershire County Council is responsible for identifying the frontline social care workers in priority group/cohort two to the local NHS vaccination programme lead, in order for those workers to be invited for a vaccination. However, we do not believe this responsibility is being adequately met at present.

Stroud Coronavirus Community Response has been fielding questions from members of the public across the Stroud district (and Gloucestershire more broadly) and seeking to provide good quality information as part of our efforts to support the community through the pandemic since March. Recently, we have been fielding questions about vaccination. People are understandably keen to know when they will be vaccinated. 

The Novel coronavirus (COVID19) Standard Operating Procedure, COVID-19 vaccine deployment programme: Frontline social care workers (JCVI Priority Cohort 2) Version 1, 14 January 2021 states clearly: 

“Local authorities, working with the CQC and local resilience forum partners, are responsible for ensuring that all employers of frontline social care workers in their area are identified and provided with the necessary information and support to make arrangements for the vaccination of staff.”

The operating procedure makes clear on page five of the document that this covers “all frontline social care workers directly working with people clinically vulnerable to COVID19 who need care and support irrespective of where they work (for example in people’s own homes, day centres, care homes for working age adults or supported housing); whether they care for clinically vulnerable adults or children; or who they are employed by (for example local government, NHS private sector or third sector employees)”.

While GCC has engaged with some employers, they have not reached out to others, and do not appear to have contacted privately employed or self employed workers. Some employers they have been in contact with are chasing daily for a letter to proceed with no reply.

When we have asked to identify who those who have not been contacted should be contacting within GCC, [name removed from public version of letter], Health Protection Practitioner replied “The rollout of the vaccine in Gloucestershire is being dealt with wholly by the NHS.  I have copied them in on this reply so hopefully they can address your enquiry.”

Until GCC acknowledges its responsibilities and publicises a point of contact, these employers, privately employed and self-employed workers cannot start the process. This is massively delaying their vaccinations, putting the vulnerable people they care for at higher risk for longer, while the general population in their 70s (i.e. group 3 ahead of group 2) are being vaccinated.

Denying these workers access to the vaccinations when they are entitled to them, for these people to be forgotten again, can only be described as discrimination, as ableism, and must be resolved as a matter of urgency. These are workers who have previously left behind when PPE stocks were most pressured, which likewise raised the risk to those they care for – people who are disproportionately at risk from the virus.

On a practical level, many organisations are directing workers to register with their GP. Some GPs have then directed people to ring Gloucestershire Royal. Their switchboard has directed at least one person to just turn up at a vaccination hub. Of the people we have spoken to in the NHS (GPs, practice managers, the CCG), no-one has anywhere to refer these people. Meanwhile, they are absorbing valuable GP surgery staff time, at a time when these staff are under pressure to arrange vaccinations for patients, without benefit.

This is information that should be easily available. That it is not is causing a lot of distress, and requires urgent resolution. We ask that you:

Confirm it is GCC’s responsibility to identify eligible workers

Provide clear information on the GCC website and social media for these workers and how they can access vaccine appointments, including any requirements to demonstrate eligibility

Communicate the list of eligible people in this category to organisations involved in booking appointments

Many thanks in anticipation,

Best wishes

Rachel Sleigh, James Beecher, Sarah Dixon 

On behalf of Stroud Coronavirus Community Response

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