In the week Joanna Hayman is an Employer Liaison Adviser (ELA) in the GMC’s Outreach team, but as she’s retained her licence to practise, she also works as a GP on Saturdays. Here she discusses how she helped set up the local COVID management service in Herefordshire, during the first wave of COVID-19 last year, and is now taking out time from her ELA role to support the vaccination programme.

So, when the first vaccine was authorised for use in the UK, I volunteered to help in the administration process. After completing 12 hours of online training modules, including data handling and safeguarding, similar to what I’ve previously completed for the GMC, I was ready to start.

During each vaccination session there needs to be two people present: A registered healthcare professional to carry out the clinical assessment and consent and a suitably trained member of staff who administers the vaccine. Being the registered healthcare professional in this setting, I’ve found the process of vaccinating to be a really uplifting and fulfilling experience.

With the priority groups for vaccination made up of mainly elderly people, who may have been shielding or quarantining for months without much social interaction, when they do come out to their appointments they want to stay and talk for a while.

I recall one couple showing up dressed in a full suit and a fur coat for their appointment. They said itwas like their D-Day and so they had to pull out all the stops. Another gentleman in his 80s cried while receiving the vaccine because he was so looking forward to seeing his grandchildren in person, for the first time in nine months. Things like these really emphasised to me how much of a life-changing moment it is for some people and the role we as doctors play in providing this care.

On request from the local GP Federation I’ve also been organising the roving vaccination team of nurses who travel to administer vaccines to those who are confined to their homes. As the clinical lead for the team I troubleshoot issues that may arise above their authority when out and about – including what to do if a person doesn’t have the capacity to consent, looking up a patient’s medical history if they’re unsure of what medication or doses they might be on, and speaking to family members who might have concerns around receiving the vaccine.

The flooding in January, combined with rural locations, meant I had to enlist the help of a local farmer to aid one nurse who got stuck when travelling near farmlands. More involvement with the community is being planned, as Army nurses from the local military base have joined the vaccination drive for priority groups and support drivers, with 4x4s, from the local area are being coordinated for easier travel over rural terrain to safely reach people in more secluded areas. This ease of transport and organisation is especially important to the roving team because of the time and storage restrictions the vaccine vials come with.

Reflecting on the vaccine rollout so far, I’m proud to say that Herefordshire has one of the highest rates for vaccinating people. As we get closer to vaccinating all those in priority groups, we’ll start to see a ramping up of vaccinations as people start to get their second dose.

In conversations I’ve had with other doctors supporting the vaccine roll-out, they’ve all been really impressed with the support the GMC has shown for the vaccination drive – and the support they’ve provided me in taking time off so staff like me can actively participate as well. So much so that some were quite surprised when I mentioned the GMC had agreed an honorary contract for me to work in the vaccination clinic for free, as all current volunteer vaccination staff are paid.

In what has been an incredibly challenging time for all healthcare workers, and the public, I’m proud to be playing my part in the road to recovery and to see first-hand the optimism the vaccine roll-out is providing to those who get the jab.

If you would like to learn more about our Outreach team and how they support doctors and employers, you can find the contact details for the team in your region on our website.