A project to ensure that people with learning disabilities had access to the COVID-19 vaccine has been named ‘Inclusion Champion’ at the Greater Manchester Health and Care Champion Awards.
The learning disabilities teams from the NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust worked with Salford Primary Care Together and GPs throughout the city to identify each person in Salford with learning disabilities and offer them the vaccine.
They thought about what deters people from getting the vaccine, such as fear of doctors and health environments; fear of needles; sensory overload in busy vaccination centers; difficulty waiting for long periods and not having information in appropriate formats to enable them to make an informed choice. They decided that, as a ‘reasonable adjustment’, they would offer all persons on the practicing disability register a home visit from a specialist nurse who understands the needs of people with learning disabilities for their vaccines.
Easy-to-read booklets and letters were produced along with a dedicated vaccination order line for people with learning disabilities. For those who could get into a vaccination center, dedicated clinics were set up with longer appointment times, no waiting time and relaxing music. Family caregivers were also offered the vaccine.
As a result, the uptake of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the community with learning disabilities was 84%, while the second dose uptake was 81%.
Sean Dempsey (44) lives in Salford and has Down syndrome. Sean received the vaccine from a local learning disability nurse in his own home to make it easier for him. He said, “Mandy came to my house. It helped that I already knew her. She made me feel more confident and helped me feel calm, just by being herself. I did not look! It was brilliant, it will keep me safe. Normally I’m afraid of getting shocked, but this event made me feel confident. ”
Dr. Tom Tasker, President of the NHS Salford CCG, said: ” We are incredibly proud of this achievement and the recognition of the GM Health and Care Champion Awards. It demonstrates genuine partnership working in Salford and how we really came together during the largest immunization program in NHS history while making sure no one was left behind. The team went out of their way to help people with learning disabilities understand the vaccine and make the COVID-19 vaccine experience as easy as possible. ”
Dr. Dawood Anwar, Chief Clinical Lead for Salford Primary Care Together, added: “These awards demonstrated the strength of the relationships we have at Salford. All providers came together, collaborated and innovated to deliver clinics to one of the most vulnerable cohorts in our society. ”
“This was an effort from everyone – the specialist nurses, the Commissioners, the public health and SPCT teams and wider colleagues in primary care. It has been a great achievement – we are all for the right reason to do something very special for our patients. ”
The project was honored at the GM Health and Care Champion Awards, the only Greater Manchester-wide awards to recognize paid and unpaid workforce members who regularly work to improve the health and well-being of the people of Greater Manchester.