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How one practice used a Frozen-themed clinic to encourage children to have their flu jab

14 September 2022

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As we approach flu jab season and practices need to take urgent steps to maximise childhood immunisation income, Gareth Thomas at West Quay Medical Centre in South Wales describes how his surgery creates themed clinics to increase uptake  

What are the themed flu jab clinics and how do they work?

Over the years, our practice has held various themed clinics where staff dress up as characters and we try to create more of an event for children coming in for their flu vaccine.

The last one we did was based on the film Frozen.  I dressed up as Olaf and we had other members of staff dress up as characters, including Elsa and Anna. But we’ve also held a Halloween-themed one in the past.

This year, because the children have missed out over the past two years due to Covid, our aim is to make it an even bigger event and have arranged for a children’s entertainer to do magic in the practice.

Our team is a bit too busy to dress up as characters these days, so we decided it would be less pressure to bring someone in to do this.

We are really hoping that the children will be wowed and excited by the magic, and they’ll leave the practice and tell their friends about it so other parents are encouraged to bring their children to the surgery too. Any way we can get children engaged in what we do is a good thing.

We try and run two clinics so that we can get everybody in and hold them in the afternoon when the rest of the practice isn’t so busy.

How did the idea for themed clinics come about?

Essentially, we wanted to try and improve the uptake of the childhood flu vaccination. The idea came from our healthcare assistants and our nursing team.

The practice held a clinic years ago at the practice where we invented a flu character, but the team thought it would be even better idea incorporate popular characters the children would know. We have also put on activities such as face painting in the past.

This is all about maintaining a good, positive relationship with the patient community, engaging patients as much as we can. It incentivises parents to bring the children in to be vaccinated, which is a good thing. And, of course, I think children feel happier to come into the practice if there’s a character to meet or something fun for them to do. It distracts their attention from the nasal vaccine.

Halloween-themed-flu-clinic-West-Quay-Medical

What about during Covid?

We definitely saw a decrease in parents bringing children in to be vaccinated during the pandemic  – around 56% of two-year-olds and almost 58.5% of three-year-olds were vaccinated last year, which was a drop from pre-pandemic levels.  

We have quite a big group of children at the practice, but the past two years have seen less parents bringing their children in for a flu vaccine.

We couldn’t run clinics in the normal way or, of course, dress up during the height of the pandemic, so instead we put party packs together with puzzles and fun bits and bobs to give out to children when they came in for their vaccine.

We’re hoping that with things more back to normal now that uptake the numbers will go up again.

How are the themed clinics received by patients?

They are generally received well by both parents and children. Some children even join in themselves and come dressed up as princesses and so forth.

Would you recommend them?

Definitely. It gets the practice engaged, it gets parents and patients engaged, and most importantly it helps the children be less afraid to come into the practice. It makes the whole experience much less clinical if there are friendly characters there to see and meet.

Some of the staff get excited as well!

How do you engage the other cohorts?

It’s tricky. A large proportion of over-65s are regulars because they have long-term conditions that are managed and they’re prepared for the flu vaccine every year. But anybody over the age of 50 is eligible for a flu vaccine this year and that has been quite a hard group to reach if they are otherwise healthy.

Last year we had 80% of eligible patients come in for a vaccination, which is really good. But we need to maintain that momentum and keeping immunisations at the forefront of people’s minds as we approach winter.

I hope a lot of people will come forward because of Covid and because vaccines have been talked about so much over the past couple of years. But it’s difficult to determine.

We hold clinics on Saturdays during October to alleviate pressures on core services in the week.

Do you worry about patients choosing to go to pharmacies for their jab instead of the practice?

My personal view is that if people go to a pharmacy, that’s entirely okay. If they’re able to offer patients a flu vaccination, then that’s something that patients should consider.

Having said that, every year we do write to patients who have had their vaccination at the pharmacy to tell them we order enough supply for all eligible patients and to consider booking with us this year.

Gareth Thomas MSc is Business Manager at West Quay Medical Centre in Barry, South Wales and Associate Director of the Institute of General Practice Management

Images supplied by the practice

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