Assurance given to elderly patients over COVID-19 vaccinations

A senior doctor from the Suffolk GP Federation, which is running the COVID-19 vaccination programme for 28 of the county’s 62 GP practices, today said all patients over 80 will have been contacted by the end of this week.

Patients who have a mobile phone will receive a text and those who do not are being posted first-class letters. The texts and letters will enable patients to book an appointment to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr Ruth Bushaway, the Federation’s Medical Director, said she was aware that some patients who have not yet been contacted were anxious they were going to miss out.

“I can assure them all that this isn’t the case and that people over 80 who haven’t already heard can expect their invitation, either by text or letter, very soon,” she said. “We have a list of all patients who need to be offered a vaccination and will ensure we contact all of them”.

A total of about 17,000 patients registered at the 28 practices over the age of 80 will be invited for vaccination at one of the five vaccination centres being run by the Federation. They are located at Debenham; Haverhill; Stowmarket; Trinity Park, Ipswich; and Woodbridge.

Dr Bushaway said: “All five centres started to vaccinate in the second half of last week. We’ve made a good start and have received many positive comments from the patients about the protection they are being given from this awful virus.

“By the end of this week, patients who we have a mobile phone number for will be texted an invitation to book an appointment and those without mobiles will receive a letter through the post.

“Those patients who have already been sent a text to book an appointment but who have not already done so will be sent a second text to remind them.”

She said texts are being sent from “NHS-NoReply” and include a unique booking code and a link to a website so the patient can book an appointment online.

The letters also include a unique booking code, details of the website and a booking line, which is an Ipswich phone number.

Dr Bushaway said that many elderly people were adept at using mobile phones and about 80% of appointments booked so far have been made online.

If the patient is unable to book online, a family member or friend can do so on their behalf. They will need to provide the patient’s name, date of birth, postcode and a mobile number or email address, which can be the family member’s or friend’s.

Dr Bushaway added that the booking phoneline, which has also been shared with patients who have been texted, was experiencing high demand with so, wherever possible, it is best and easiest to book online.

If you do have to call the booking phoneline, which is open 8.30am to 6pm seven days a week, the best time of day to do so is in the afternoon.

The Federation is running the vaccination programme for the following 28 practices: Barham & Claydon; Burlington Road, Ipswich; Chesterfield Drive, Ipswich; Combs Ford; Deben Road, Ipswich; Debenham; Derby Road, Ipswich; Eye; Felixstowe Road, Ipswich; Framlingham, Framfield House, Woodbridge; Fressingfield; Glemsford; Hawthorn Drive, Ipswich; Haverhill Family; Holbrook & Shotley; Little St John’s, Woodbridge; Mendlesham; Needham Market; Norwich Road, Ipswich; Orchard Street, Ipswich; Dr Solway, Ipswich; Peninsula (Alderton & Aldeburgh); Ravenswood, Ipswich; Stowhealth, Stowmarket; Unity Healthcare (formerly Christmas Maltings), Haverhill; Wickham Market; and Wickhambrook.

The five centres are currently also being used to vaccinate staff from care homes, GP practices and members of the Federation’s own workforce.

GP practices are responsible for vaccinating the residents of care homes. Those practices will also be contacting housebound patients aged 80+ before the end of this week to invite them to be vaccinated.

* The Federation has prepared a list of likely questions about the COVID-19 vaccination programme with answers here.