Sir Jonathan Van Tam visits 'life-changing' specialised Covid-19 unit in Boston

Sir Jonathan Van Tam has visited a ‘life-changing’ specialised unit which helped clinically vulnerable people feel safe to connect with their families again during the Covid 19 pandemic.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam with staff from the Complex COVID Clinic at Pilgrim Hospital.Professor Jonathan Van-Tam with staff from the Complex COVID Clinic at Pilgrim Hospital.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam with staff from the Complex COVID Clinic at Pilgrim Hospital.

The Complex COVID Unit at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital - which just marked its second anniversary - was established by United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) as the first in the region.

It is only one of a handful of locations across the country set up to help people that may experience an emergency reaction to the COVID vaccination, so they can get vaccinated in a safe setting.

A spokesperson for ULHT said: “Some patients that used the clinic were invited back to Pilgrim Hospital to share their experience of the service and how the pandemic affected them.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam meeting patients at Pilgrim hospitalProfessor Jonathan Van-Tam meeting patients at Pilgrim hospital
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam meeting patients at Pilgrim hospital

"They chatted over tea and cake with Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who discussed the science behind how the vaccine has driven down COVID cases nationally.

“He also shared some of his famous analogies that he didn’t get the opportunity to use during the national television briefings.”

Since opening in 2021, the unit has provided a safe space for around 800 higher-risk patients with specialised medical professionals from nursing and resus teams on hand to manage any potential reactions.

Patients that have used the service have included people with complex medical histories or that have previously experienced anaphylaxis, needle-phobic patients that needed extra reassurance and patience from staff, and even Trust staff that had previously had a reaction to the vaccination but wanted further doses to protect themselves and their patients at work.

Professor Van-Tam, who joined NHS staff and patients on the day, commented: “It’s really nice to see everyone here and meet some patients and staff and to see the next stage of the vaccine programme.”

One of the patients at the celebration included Diane who was turned away from the mass vaccination hub as her allergies made it too unsafe for her to get her vaccination in a non-specialised setting and was referred to the Complex COVID Clinic.

Diane said: “The process was really good and really quick. Dr Mitchell phoned me up a few days after the referral for the assessment and invited me to the clinic.

“I definitely felt safe visiting as I was given individualised monitoring. Because my reactions do not come on very quickly, they let me stay and when I did have adverse effects they were there to help me. It was all very calm and professional, it was lovely.

“It was a surprise to be invited back to meet Jonathan Van-Tam, but it was really nice to actually meet someone that you’ve heard talk for so long on the COVID problems, and for him to explain about where we are now and what has changed was really good.”

Leanne Belton, Lead Nurse/Matron for the Complex COVID Clinic, said: “I’m incredibly proud of everything the team has managed to achieve by creating a nationally recognised service that has been a lifeline to clinically vulnerable people that were faced with staying in their home indefinitely because they were deemed too high risk to get vaccinated.

“It’s involved a lot of hard work and collaboration between departments to carefully consider the individual needs of every patient that is referred to us, but hearing from the patients about how thankful they are for the service has made everything worth it.”