The NHS has outlined detailed plans to accelerate the COVID-19 booster programme with more pop-up vaccination centres and extended opening hours as part of plans to protect the nation against the new Omicron variant.
In response to the threat of the new variant, vaccination sites have been asked to operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week wherever possible and in every community, there should be slots available at least 16 hours a day – with some sites extending to 24-hour operation to make it easier for people who work shift patterns.
The NHS has also said that temporary buildings such as portacabins and tents are ready to be dispatched to extend existing sites and support with queues.
Local NHS teams will also work with local authorities, the voluntary and community sector, to prioritise delivery and make it as easy as possible for people to get their top up protection, as well as redeploying admin and clinical staff to support with vaccinations.
The NHS has also declared a level 4 national incident, in recognition of the potentially significant increase in COVID cases and the new vaccination challenge.
Around one in ten of all booked appointments are currently no shows and so services are asked to factor this into their planning – adding even more appointments into their planning each day.
Anyone who has already had a booster will have their appointment automatically removed to free the appointment up on the system and the NHS will be reminding people to cancel if they no longer need their booked appointment.
More pop-up sites will be coming online with local areas looking at the most convenient sites for their communities – from trucks and buses in parks and cathedrals to football stadiums and leisure centres.
There are now around 3,000 sites across the country – more than at any point of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination rollout – this now includes double the number of hospitals offering jabs to the public – going from 30 to 71 in two weeks.
GP teams have been asked to clinically prioritise their services to free up maximum capacity to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme, alongside delivering critical appointments such as cancer, urgent and emergency care and while this means some appointments will be postponed, the NHS has asked people to be patient and consider the herculean effort we are asking of our staff.
The NHS is prioritising bookings for boosters and is urging people to book a slot to guarantee their vital jab. Some vaccination sites are offering a walk-in service to over 18s if they have spare capacity.
While the NHS will be accelerating the speed and scale of the booster programme to all those 18 and over with the online system opening from Wednesday, those at greatest risk will continue to be prioritised, including those residing and working in care homes, health and care staff, those who are housebound, and those who are immunosuppressed.
Dr Emily Lawson, director of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme said: “Today we have set out how we intend to respond to the new national mission to turbo-charge the booster programme so every adult can get their top up jab and quickly.
“It is a huge and complex challenge for an already stretched health service, but our incredible NHS staff and volunteers – as they have throughout the pandemic – will once again be pulling out all of the stops to ensure we get lifesaving boosters into the arms of the public as soon as possible before the end of the year.
“The latest data has shown us that the booster is absolutely our best hope of protecting people against the new variant, so please do book your booster to guarantee your booking.”
“And my final plea is to please consider joining the thousands of vaccinators and volunteers who have already signed up to lend a hand – this mission wouldn’t be possible without you”.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “Throughout the pandemic, NHS staff have done what’s been required to keep people safe, from rapidly putting in place extra critical care capacity to rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in health service history and the fastest booster programme in Europe, and now the next big challenge which NHS staff are determined to meet, is the national mission to offer top-ups to everyone eligible.
“In line with government’s request to focus maximum resource on getting jabs into arms, it’s vital too that people continue to come forward for urgent care and also for potentially life-saving checks for major conditions like cancer”.
Today the national booking system opened up to everyone aged 30-39 to book in for their booster, and it will open up to everyone aged 18 and over from Wednesday this week.
The NHS is prioritising bookings for boosters and is urging people to book a slot to guarantee their vital jab. Some vaccination sites are offering a walk-in service for 18s and over from tomorrow if they have spare capacity.
Saturday (11 December) saw a record total of 483,361 boosters delivered, and in just over a year, the NHS has administered 43 million first doses, 39.2 million second doses and more than 19 million boosters.
Following the launch of a recruitment drive last week, the NHS is continuing to encourage people to come forward and help the NHS to save lives either as a volunteer or in a paid role in the programme – and already thousands have stepped up. Military personnel are also being deployed to support regional delivery as they have supported throughout the NHS vaccine roll out.
NHS staff will also be redeployed so that they can focus on protecting the entire country as quickly as possible and military aid will be in place in every region across the country to support NHS staff with planning for the extra vaccinations.
The NHS has advised that the best way to get your booster quickly is by booking online or by calling 119 but if walk in centres have capacity to do so, they can vaccinate adults aged 18 and over immediately.