The global Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of effective and safe immunisation programmes to control the spread of potentially deadly illnesses, with the race to develop and roll out an effective vaccine gathering pace across the world.
Given the global interest in finding a vaccine for Coronavirus, it would be easy to assume that other immunisation programmes for preventable childhood diseases here in the UK, would be achieving high uptake rates. Sadly, this is not always the case.
SCW’s Improving Immunisations Uptake Team (IIU) is working to reduce regional and local variation in immunisation uptake and provides a wide range of support to practices in primary care, empowering them to increase their childhood immunisation uptake rates.
The IIU team promote a whole practice approach; by facilitating multi-professional meetings, reviewing practice-wide processes and promoting evidence-based best practice in the delivery of the child immunisation programme. This has assisted many practices to significantly increase and sustain their uptake rates.
Whilst the UK was in full lockdown, the IIU team continued to work in partnership with practices and parents, to ensure the delivery of the child vaccination programme was maintained, during a very difficult time for primary care services. Many practices and parents faced a number of challenges when trying to ensure children continued to receive their immunisations. The IIU team provided telephone, email and “virtual” face to face support for practices, alongside a helpline for parents who were struggling to contact their local GP to either book or attend immunisation appointments.
The hard work and willingness of practices in primary care to adapt previous methods of working and introduce new more innovative models ensured the vaccination uptake rates were maintained and in some areas increased during lockdown – a truly amazing outcome.
Due to the positive outcomes achieved, many practices are continuing to review their immunisation processes, with the majority embracing the potential to offer or continue with, adapted ways of working developed during the Coronavirus outbreak.
The IIU team’s work with practices has encouraged them to explore how lessons learnt from improving childhood immunisation uptake rates, can be applied to improving uptake within primary care of other important public health initiatives, such as seasonal flu vaccination, screening programmes and health checks. The IIU team are also encouraging practice multi-disciplinary teams to work collaboratively across PCN’s in order to share and promote best practice and to identify and embrace new ways of working, such as making use of applications such as Microsoft Teams, to facilitate virtual meetings.
More collaborative working within primary care also provides scope for a better overview of inequalities/variations in care across regions and systems, in order to improve health care outcomes for all. The IIU team’s work with practices provides an opportunity to gather intelligence that can identify trends and emerging or long-standing issues, that could affect uptake rates and outcomes locally, regionally and nationally.