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Secret Diary of a Practice Manager : Looking Back to Plan Ahead

The whole of 2021 was dominated by Covid, and it is difficult to believe that we are entering the new year with Covid still likely to be the dominant issue once again. But I want this to be a positive blog as we have so much in primary care to be proud of.

The vaccine becoming available at the beginning of 2021 was the start of primary care becoming involved in vaccinating from one site within the PCN. Most PCNs quickly got plans together to get around the difficulties of giving the vaccines, due to storage and movement, along with a wait time of 15 minutes, and quickly started to formulate plans to help the rollout.

The first large clinic we had was on the first Saturday of January 2021, when we came together and gave over 1200 vaccines. So many people supported us, from all our staff, volunteers from across the PCN, to the Council, and local Church and it was a well-coordinated day. The over-eighties that came were resilient and appreciative of what we were doing. Listening to patients whilst they were waiting, it was humbling to realise that a lot of these patients had not been out of the house for 9 months.

We then proceeded to bring the age down of those we were vaccinating until we reached fifty. It was a long process and depended so much on a coordinated, community spirit and brought people closer together. We then needed to give out the second dose, and so we went through the same process again.

The whole NHS rollout programme was a fantastic achievement for all those involved, and we led the world with the vaccine and one of the fastest roll-outs. By June/July there was a call for a more normal service to be resumed, and a request to move away from online and telephone consultations and back towards face-to-face appointments. At this point, many PCNs decided to stop the vaccination and would not do the under-fifties, as this level of work was not sustainable.

Don't believe the (media) hype

There was a lot of criticism from the press and media of primary care (which was not defended by the NHS) and we did see the more difficult patients complaining and accusing us of being shut down completely.

This was a tough time for all, but we were always there for our patients despite claims to the contrary. There was little support to explain that the new ways of working had been in the planning long before Covid, and we brought forward the implementation to the benefit of everyone. Towards the end of 2021, there was a lot of discussion on the possibility of giving a Covid Booster, and again primary care was asked to help out.

However, there was no negotiating with the NHS, and they expected us to still complete QOF and maintain full normal working. This was an unreasonable request and was declined by many PCNs.

Booster Programmes

So as the new strain took hold towards the end of the year and with a new surge of those with the virus, the NHS removed many of their demands and pleaded with us to assist, guaranteeing income for the 2021/2 year. Towards the end of 2021, we started booster vaccinations and will be increasing the output during 2022.

No one knows what 2022 will bring, but based on our work in 2021, and a will to do as much as possible, I am sure we will continue to work together and help each other through the crisis.

2022 will see the roll-out of more PCN initiatives, and as a firm believer in this new way of working, I can see many benefits for practices and patients. I would hope that a dialogue with the population on these advances would help us implement the changes but based on past experience I am not confident we will get this.

I do believe we have a lot to be proud of, working through these unprecedented times and I continue to believe we have the people in the country to get us through this period and back to more normal times.

Wishing everyone a healthy 2022.


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