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Swine-flu vaccines and a fridge too far

16 December 2009

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Consultant Editor

Having had to deal with the impact of the “dreaded” swine flu for the last seven months, it was with a sigh of relief (at least I think it was, if only to fend off the questions from the public) that our vaccine arrived last week – the first 500 doses anyway, at the time of writing.

Our primary care trust (PCT) is giving 500 doses to every practice irrespective of list size. We have 21,000 patients, so management of the allocation is not going to be easy to say the least, and who knows when the next batch will arrive? (Hopefully it will have arrived by the time you’re reading this!)

Anyway, at least we now have somewhere to put the vaccines. It was touch and go for a while, as our shiny new fridge, which was ordered and paid for, was not actually dispatched, despite the computer saying it had been. But no – it was still sitting on the warehouse floor three weeks following the order. Which would come first we wondered: the vaccine or the fridge?

Our staff were vaccinated first. Our nurse circulated a questionnaire asking staff if they wanted it. The list had three options: “yes”, “no” and “unsure”. Guess how many were unsure? “Are you having it? I will if you will …” This was the prevailing mindset.

On the first day, we reached the point where our nurse was actively touting for business. It was literally: “Roll up, roll up! Get your swine-flu jab. If I don’t get 10 then no one can have it.” Needless to say, those who were previously uncertain quickly became certain and were swiftly immunised before they had the chance to change their minds.

Vaccination planning has been horrendous, though, and as I am sure you all know has been impossible to manage. With such a large patient list and a huge amount of elderly chronic patients, we like to have what we call a “flu week”. We embargo leave and spend the week fitting in mass vaccination clinics, which we advertise in the press. This year, we left it to the last minute before advertising, hoping we’d receive the swine-flu vaccines at the same time, which would at least have cut down some of the workload.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, hence two massive campaigns within three weeks of each other, which required lots of overtime, lots of admin and a depleting Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) register. Having said that, we are being well paid! Every cloud, eh?

Inspirational achievements
Anyway, enough of flu – let’s move on to something that, by contrast, has been well organised and obviously well thought out … the Management in Practice Awards ceremony that took place at the Birmingham NEC in October (see page 54 for our report on the winners).

Congratulations are in order to all of the winners, but I think a special mention of Upton Surgery, Worcestershire is warranted, as not only were they named Practice of the Year 2009 but they also won the Customer Care Award too, after the judging panel considered the practice to have developed an excellent array of patient-focused initiatives. Well done to Practice Manager Philippa White and her team – they are truly an inspiration to us all.

If you think your practice team could also inspire others, why not look out for new opportunities in the 2010 Management in Practice Awards? Practice managers will be invited to submit applications next year. Some new categories have been announced, which you can read about on our website awards page.

As Philippa says in our report, there are hundreds of unsung hero practice managers and teams up and down the country – many of you will have innovative stories to tell, so do take a moment to enter by completing a short online application. Applications will be accepted from early 2010.
While looking forward to that, here’s wishing you a very happy Christmas and New Year.