'We just want to get this job done': Vaccination centre steaming ahead with Covid-19 boosters

Volunteer medical staff sit in a community kitchen that has been meticulously transformed into a sterile room for the mixing of Pfizer booster vaccines.

Rachel Bilsborough, former director of clinical services for the NHS, and Judith O'Kelly, former head of nursing at Leicester (pictured front) came out of retirement to join the team of volunteers.

Seven hundred and 60 patients from four surgeries across a wide area of Lincolnshire are expected that day - but even after months of battling the pandemic, the commitment of the team remains strong.

Amongst them are Rachel Bilsborough - former director of clinical services for the NHS - and Judith O'Kelly - former head of nursing at Leicester - who had only just retired when they signed up to join the team of around 70 volunteers.

They have been involved since the first Covid-19 vaccinations were given at the Franklin Hall in Spilsby.in January and started with the booster rollout four weeks ago

Patient Melvyn Sherlock gets a shot of hand sanitiser from volunteer Malcolm Fielder on arrival at the Franklin Hall in Spilsby.

Judith said: "In my 39 years in nursing this job has been the most rewarding I have ever done.

"When you see people who have not been out of the homes for a year it can be very emotional."

Rachel, of Peterborough, added: "It's being part of the national effort- there is a great spirit here."

One of a number of Local Vaccination Centres (LVC) across the county, Franklin Hall has played a critical role ensuring 29,000 local people are able to have the Covid vaccination.

Malcolm Hull of Mablethorpe receiving his booster vaccination.

It is run by the SOLAS Primary Care Network, which is made up of four local GP practices – Merton Lodge Surgery in Alford, Old Leake Medical Centre, The Spilsby Surgery, and Stickney Surgery – and its Clinical Director is Dr Ben Moore, Stickney Surgery.

In May the NHS teams in Spilsby reached a 'significant milestone' after the 20,000th person received the Covid-19 vaccination.

"It was certainly a high spot," said Dr Ben Moore, clinical lead for the site. "The fact that this is not one of the big vaccination centres and it has been achieved alongside the daily running of the surgeries, which are also under massive pressure is an outstanding achievement.

"We have a fantastic team of around 60-70 people who knew we just had to get this job done.

Michael Lenton, of Spilsby, has been a volunteer since September.

"It's been a real positive effort to get out of the pandemic and get people safe.

"In fact the whole experience, including the patients, has been positive.

The team of volunteers is a mix of staff from the medical centres, the Primary Care network, ambulance staff and retired doctors and nurses.

"The patients have turned out whether it's cold, dark or raining - they were just pleased to be here - we've had very few who haven't turned up," Dr Moore said. "

As well as the vaccination team, other volunteers help with guiding the patients and cleaning everything down.

Malcolm Fielder, a retired hospital administrator from Skegness, was greeting patients at the door with hand sanitiser. "I'm just happy to be able to use my skills to help. I like to keep busy in the community and spent two-and-a-half years running the food bank at the Storehouse in Skegness.

"This is an excellent way of helping the community."

Michael Lenton, of Spilsby, was wiping down the seats and has been helping at Franklin Hall since September. "It's been a great team effort and very well organised," he said. "The patients have been great too - I think the experience makes you very grateful when you enjoy good health."

In the area set aside for people to sit for 15 minutes before driving home was 77-year-old Malcolm Hull of Mablethorpe, who said he was glad to get the booster to keep is business running because he can't afford to be sick on the run-up to Christmas.

Malcolm runs Coastal Distillery in Mablethorpe - and has been keeping online customers happy during the pandemic with his Damraiders and Coastal Gins.

"I'm really pleased to get my booster jab - I can't afford to be off work," he said. "The business is a big part of my life but I have been affected by the pandemic - I'm not as outgoing and haven't travelled as far for instance.

"But this does give me more confidence about the future."

Retired 1960's rock band singer and graphic designer Melvyn Sherlock, 77, of Alford, was also singing his medical centre's praises for organising the boosters.

"It it wasn't for the fact I have a lung condition I might not have had the vaccination," he said. "But having it has certainly given me more confidence."

Across the Midland region more than one million people have now received their Covid-19 booster - with the rollout for bookings now being extended to people over 50 and those most at risk of COVID-19 five months after their second dose.

People will still receive their vaccine six months after their second dose, but the change will speed up the vaccination programme by allowing people to receive a jab the day they become eligible, rather than waiting for a convenient appointment.

People will also be able to book by calling 119 and can get vaccinated at hundreds of walk-in sites across the country six months after their second dose without an appointment. Those eligible can use the NHS online walk-in finder to locate the most convenient site.

Commenting, Matt Warman said: “It is absolutely fantastic news that 1,552,387 people across the Midlands have received a booster dose or third vaccination, which will offer life-saving protection to them and their loved ones this winter.

“Those people, including everyone who has got their third jab in Boston & Skegness, are part of the ten million people across the country who have already received a booster jab. I would urge anyone who is eligible and hasn’t yet come forward to get a booster jab as soon as possible, by booking online or at one of our local walk-in sites.

"We can all do our bit this winter to protect our loved ones and the NHS, and to stay ahead in the race against the virus, by taking up the offer of a vaccine as soon as we are eligible.”

The vaccination programme is now vaccinating people aged 34 or over, as well as giving second doses – for more information visit www.lincolnshire.nhs.uk/covid/how-do-i-get-my-vaccination