The ability to provide a quick, efficient and flexible immunisation service has never been more important and Virgin Care has developed a model allowing it to efficiently run vaccination programmes over large geographical areas, simplifying the process of booking appointments and ensuring appropriate consent is in place through innovative work with its partner RIVIAM.
Once a vaccine is found for COVID-19 the need to immunise huge numbers of people swiftly will be paramount to relaxing restrictions and helping us return to normality.
Add this to the importance of making sure there is a high take up of the flu vaccination this year to help protect the NHS, and the need for immunisation programmes which can effectively immunise large groups efficiently has never been more apparent.
Virgin Care has been developing skills and experience in this area over a number of years, and has been delivering the flu vaccine to school children since 2016. The organisation has been learning from this experience and making improvements every year including using innovative solutions to solve common challenges to ensuring comprehensive coverage.
From the booking of appointments with those needing to be vaccinated to obtaining consent and the ordering and administering of vaccines, the process can be extremely complex and time consuming – and, therefore, costly.
In the case study below, we show how the Virgin Care team rose to the challenge of vaccinating more than 100,000 children across 1,000 schools in the South West in just a few weeks.
Immunising young people against ‘flu has been an important part of the Government’s strategy to keep people healthy and reduce pressure on the health service for some years.
Immunising children not only prevents young people becoming ill but also prevents them from spreading it to their friends and families.'
It is a familiar story to us all during these times, since like COVID-19 a substantial proportion of people carry the virus without ever suffering the symptoms themselves, risking unwittingly spreading it to people more at risk of complications.
But planning, running and delivering immunisation programmes in the community is a huge task involving complex logistics, high standards of clinical care and infection prevention and control in a variety of environments, and – of course – a pleasant experience for the person receiving the vaccine as well.
It involves liaising with the venues involved, getting consent from service users or their guardians, booking in the vaccinations and then running the session to administer the vaccines. There’s also cancellations to manage and making sure enough vaccine is on site – and stored correctly – so the clinic can run without delay.
And for the Flu vaccine, each year this must be delivered within a brief 11-week period.
Virgin Care’s immunisation programme model has been adapted based on real life experience of delivering the flu vaccine as well as other vaccine programmes. The model is suitable for community delivery of any type of vaccine, and can adapt to delays or where a recall system is needed for multiple vaccinations.
It is so flexible that delays in the production or availability of vaccines can be addressed. In 2019, the ‘Flu vaccine was in short supply and delivery delays meant the programme had to adapt to re-arrange almost 1 in 4 vaccine appointments. Despite this, Virgin Care still achieved its target vaccination levels – at times vaccinating up to 1 person every minute.
Virgin Care’s model of delivery is delivered by a highly skilled team of nurses and healthcare assistants, supported by:
- An efficient booking, administration and logistical co-ordination service hosted within a Care Co-ordination Centre. These centres, which Virgin Care runs across England, are administration hubs with clinical input providing venues, patients and other health and care professionals with a single point of contact for questions, queries and arrangements
- An electronic consent and triage system – provided by our partners RIVIAM – removing all paper records from the system and ensuring clearer governance and accountability. Vaccines cannot be delivered without consent from the patient or their guardian, and a lost paper consent form – either on its way to a parent or back to the immunisation team – can mean a costly and inconvenient recall for the patient.The system means that staff only need to manually review around 6% of consent forms submitted, compared with 100% of paper forms, because built-in safety systems can ensure a smooth operation for clinics vaccinating up to 2,000 people a day.
- Integration with clinical systems – the electronic consent system also allows the team delivering the vaccines to immediately update the clinical record once the vaccination is complete – ensuring accurate information for other clinicians to base decision making on and reducing the administrative burden of a large scale vaccination programme.
- A comprehensive recall system, allowing those not vaccinated as part of the programme to be proactively contacted. This system’s accuracy is greatly improved through the eConsent system and integration with electronic records, allowing the SPA to work through a recall programme.
Electronic consent has been described by the operational teams as the biggest benefit to the programme in the last 5 years. And the programme has been rated highly by service users too.
During last year’s vaccination programme for ‘flu, more than 9 in 10 (98%) said they would recommend the service, with one saying: “it was easy to book, [ran] on time, the nurse was very good with the children…[They were] very patient with my son, and made him feel safe.”
How we introduced a digital immunisations consent service to transform the way that we give children important vaccinations, improve patient care, save the NHS money and reduce risks.
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