Mobile clinics deliver vital support for autumn vaccinations
Laura Nash, EMS Healthcare’s Head of Outreach Development, outlines the importance of delivering vaccines to underserved communities.Laura Nash
Published 19 September 2023
This year’s autumn flu and COVID-19 vaccine programmes are now underway across England and Wales, as a precautionary measure following the identification of a new COVID-19 variant.
The decision was taken after scientists from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) examined the variant BA.2.86, which was first detected in the UK during August. According to the latest risk assessment by UKHSA, the variant has a high number of mutations and has appeared in several countries in individuals without travel history.
The advice from UKHSA suggests that speeding up the autumn vaccine programme will deliver greater protection, supporting those at highest risk of severe illness and reducing the potential impact on the NHS.
This means those most at risk from winter illness - including people in care homes for older people, the clinically vulnerable, those aged 65 and over, health and social care staff, and carers – were able to access a COVID vaccine from September 11.
Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is working with EMS Healthcare to provide a mobile community vaccination unit, which has been deployed in Barnstaple. The mobile clinic was used as a model last year and has now returned for the autumn 2023 vaccination campaign.
COVID-19 still a threat
The annual flu vaccine will also be made available to at-risk groups at the same time wherever possible, to ensure they are protected ahead of winter.
The Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Dame Jenny Harries, said: “As we continue to live with COVID-19, we expect to see new variants emerge. Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme, we have built strong, broad immune defences against new variants throughout the population.”
“However, some people remain more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. This precautionary measure to bring forward the autumn programme will ensure these people have protection against any potential wave this winter.”
Those eligible for vaccination are encouraged to take up the offer of the vaccine as soon as they are called, to ensure they head into winter with the best protection.
Last year, during its flu vaccination campaign, the NHS administered more than 21 million flu vaccinations to adults and children, while over 17 million COVID-19 vaccinations were delivered last winter.
An incredible 149 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been given since the NHS delivered the world’s first COVID-19 jab outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan in December 2020.
Impact of mobile units
Mobile clinics are transforming the UK's approach to delivering comprehensive vaccination programmes in a number of significant ways:
- By surmounting traditional barriers to underserved populations
- Connecting with marginalised communities
- Fostering direct engagement with patients
- Prioritising inclusivity and accessibility as paramount principles
During the pandemic, EMS Healthcare supplied 28 mobile units and 10 modular structures to support COVID-19 testing capacity. Thanks to our facilities, testing capacity in the UK expanded by up to 120,000 tests a week.
We have been helping NHS Trusts and Health Boards for the last two decades, and post-COVID, we have continued to build on those strong partnerships to support the delivery of community services and help the fight against health inequalities.
Following the profoundly positive impact on underserved communities by Cheshire and Wirral Partnership’s roving COVID-19 vaccination service and recognising the significant overlap between low vaccine uptake and wider health inequalities, the Trust has worked alongside partners across the Integrated Care System (ICS) to launch the Living Well Buses.
The roving Living Well Buses utilises EMS Healthcare mobile units and is predicated on the principles of listening to communities and meeting their needs by bringing the right services to them.
The service has expanded to cover all nine place-based systems across Cheshire and Merseyside, delivering 15 outreach clinics per week on three specially designed buses. In addition to COVID-19 vaccinations, Living Well now provides a broad range of physical health checks and mental wellbeing support. The service also acts as a conduit to connect people with other local services.
Over the last 12 months, since mobilising the full offer across Cheshire and Merseyside, the Living Well service has delivered outstanding results:
- 675 clinics in identified underserved communities as of January 2023,
- 17,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, including 1034 first doses and second doses
- 18,500 individual health screening tests (including cholesterol, blood pressure and pulse check)
- 3,500 results outside healthy range, in need of referral (19%)
All clinics have been delivered within areas of identified high deprivation, ethnically diverse communities, refugee communities, homeless shelters, maternity settings, mental health crisis cafes, learning disability support hubs, food banks, faith settings, traveller and boating communities.
Flexibility is key
Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at the UK Health Security Agency, sounded a clear warning as the COVID and flu vaccination programme got underway: “The Covid-19 virus has not gone away, and we expect to see it circulating more widely over the winter months with the numbers of people getting ill increasing.”
With winter fast approaching, EMS Healthcare is offering wide-ranging support to boost vaccination capacity within hospital estates and the community, working in partnership with a variety of organisations including Innovations in Primary Care who supported GP practices in West Sussex with the national COVID-19 vaccination and booster programme. Using our self-drive Outreach unit, we supported with bringing services directly to patients, helping to improve access to important vaccinations closer to home.
From two-bay clinics which can easily access remote areas and inner-city centres, to larger eight-bay solutions that can be set up in communities, EMS Healthcare offers mobile clinical spaces that meet a range of needs in communities across the country.
To learn more about the solutions we have available to support with increasing vaccination uptake in the community, please visit our website: https://www.ems-healthcare.com/clinical-capacity/mobile-vaccination-units/