ENSURING that all eligible residents in Warrington have had access to three doses of a coronavirus vaccine has been a challenging task.

Add to this the continued pressure of maintaining a GP service and normal patient care provisions, and the past close to two years have been extremely difficult.

But that is what a team of hard-working NHS employees have been doing, working long hours and training others to help share the workload.

One of those is Dr Laura Mount, a GP at Folly Lane Medical Centre and the clinical director of Central and West Warrington Primary Care Network, who runs the Covid vaccination centre at Orford Jubilee Hub.

Dr Mount and her team were recently described as ‘jab heroes’ by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his Downing Street Covid briefing, and he even held a video call with Warrington’s vaccination stars to thank them for their efforts.

Explaining how the call came about, Dr Mount said: After he thanked us in his press conference, NHS England highlighted to him some of the work we have done to ensure everyone has access to a vaccine.

“This included outreach work with those who are homeless, vaccinating at places of work, pop-up clinics in the community and vaccinating asylum seekers.

“I am incredibly proud of our team and all the teams who have worked so hard over the last year to ensure that the people of Warrington have access to their vaccine.

Andy Gray and the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service staff assisting at the Covid vaccination centre at Orford Jubilee Hub in the summer

Andy Gray and the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service staff assisting at the Covid vaccination centre at Orford Jubilee Hub in the summer

“Staff have given up leave and days off, often working late into the evening to ensure everyone can be vaccinated when eligible.

“The vaccination programme requires input from a wide range of staff, including doctors, nurses, administrators, managers and volunteers.

“We are lucky in Warrington to have also been supported by the fire service and military.”

As of January 10, 117,678 people in Warrington had received a booster Covid vaccine dose offering greater protection against the virus, however more than 35,000 eligible residents have not booked in for a jab.

On this Dr Mount urged: “We know that a booster dose is important to protect us from the severe symptoms, and we would encourage all those eligible to attend.

“Boosted patients are much less likely to be admitted to hospital and get so seriously unwell that they require intensive care.

“They also recover much quicker and have less chance of long Covid symptoms.

“The vaccine offer is evergreen, which means it is never too late to get yours. We are always pleased to see those attending for any of their vaccines.

“Please use the link that you have been sent or visit the grab a jab website for details of walk-in clinics. There is plenty of access over the next couple of weeks.

The Covid vaccination centre at Orford Jubilee Hub

The Covid vaccination centre at Orford Jubilee Hub

“If you have questions, we will spend time discussing these with you, and if you are nervous, please come along and let us know.

“At Orford Jubilee Hub, we can offer a quiet room, you can listen to your music, bring a friend or even have your vaccine in the car.”

One population group which has seen some hesitancy towards receiving the vaccine is pregnant or new mums, but the vaccine is still encouraged.

“Unfortunately, pregnancy does seem to predispose to severe symptoms of Covid,” Dr Mount commented.

“The advice is that everyone – whether pregnant or not or even considering pregnancy – should get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“You can find out more about pregnancy and Covid-19 vaccinations via nhs.uk.”

As well as ensuring the vaccination centre is running smoothly, Dr Mount continues to work two days a week and weekends as a GP at Folly Lane Medical Centre, compared to three days in pre-pandemic times.

She says the challenge of maintaining GP access for patients and ensuring jabs are going into arms is helped by a fantastic network of NHS staff.

Patients wait to be vaccinated at Orford Jubilee Hub

Patients wait to be vaccinated at Orford Jubilee Hub

“Managing the pressures of running a vaccination clinic and being there for patients as a GP has been difficult, but I am lucky that I work with an extremely supportive group of practices,” she added.

“I have been a GP in Warrington for ten years now and grew up in the town, so it has been nice to see my patients as they have come in for a vaccination.

“We realised early on we needed a model which avoided impact on normal patient care, and so that is why I have spent time training many non-healthcare professional vaccinators over the last year.

“While we do not have any plans to cancel primary care work for vaccinations, sometimes our staff have to self-isolate which means some appointments may need to be rescheduled.

“These challenges are being seen right across the NHS at the moment.

“Demand for health services has increased a lot over the last two years due to a shortage of doctors and nurses, like all areas of the country, and we are dealing with this by diversifying our workforce.

“In our six practices in the last two years, we have recruited pharmacists, assessment physiotherapists, paramedics, social prescribers and a health coach to support our traditional team.”

If eligible, you can arrange your booster vaccination by attending walk-in clinic, booking via the national booking service or by calling 119, responding to an invitation from the NHS or booking via the Warrington Hospital booking page.