Coronavirus in Portsmouth: NHS bosses unite in warning 'things will only get worse' as they urge people to get Covid and flu vaccine

GET vaccinated to help Queen Alexandra Hospital and the NHS this winter.

By Fiona Callingham
Monday, 8th November 2021, 4:55 am

That is the message from concerned health bosses across the city who are uniting to warn: ‘Things will only get worse.’

QA Hospital has already seen queues of dozens of ambulances at A&E and paramedics subsequently declared a critical incident.

Now experts have made a plea to people saying getting the Covid and flu jabs is the ‘biggest contribution’ a person can make to support them.

Pictured: Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Picture: Habibur Rahman

It comes as the latest vaccine rates again place Portsmouth as falling behind other areas in the country, including its neighbouring towns.

Up to November 3 just 76.9 per cent of the eligible population of the city had received at least one coronavirus vaccine, and 69.6 per cent had both.

This is below Gosport, Havant, Fareham and East Hampshire where 85.7, 85.6, 88.5 and 89.7 per cent of the population respectively had at least one jab.

In England 86.9 per cent of the population have had one vaccine.

Stephanie Clark (53, Senior Clinical Lead) and Sarah Malcolm (46, Business Director) both of the vaccination programme at Solent NHS Trust. Picture: Mike Cooter (011121)

Speaking from the vaccine centre at St James’ Hospital in Portsmouth, Sarah Malcolm, the operational lead for the vaccine programme in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, said: ‘We understand the urgent care pressures in this area are really heightened at the moment.

‘We are doing everything we can to support the hospitals and ambulance service. Accessing their Covid and flu vaccine will help to reduce that burden on the system.’

Currently the Solent NHS Trust centre is continuing its ‘evergreen’ offer of first and second doses as walk-in appointments for people who have not yet had theirs.

It is also offering booster jabs to eligible people - anyone within the priority groups one to nine. Previously patients were asked to wait to hear about their appointment, however, the government announced that as of today (November 8) those people can book their booster appointment

Pictured is: Stephanie Clark, vaccination lead and head of quality and professions. Picture: Sarah Standing (310121-1048)

With the third dose - that is only for people who are immunosuppressed, due to conditions such as diabetes, AIDs, cancer or genetic disorders - people will be contacted by their GP or hospital.

16 and 17-year-olds can also get one Covid vaccine from the centre.

And Solent NHS Trust is working with schools to distribute vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds on campus. So far all but two schools have taken part.

Stephanie Clark, clinical lead for the programme in Portsmouth, added: ‘We are encouraging everyone to help protect themselves and their families as we head in to the winter months.

Sarah Malcolm (46, Business Director) and Stephanie Clark (53, Senior Clinical Lead) both of the vaccination programme at Solent NHS Trust. Picture: Mike Cooter (011121)

‘With more people mixing around the festive period and the colder weather setting in, we're especially encouraging those who are yet to take up the offer of a vaccination to come forward.

‘It's never too late to have the vaccination and we are here to support you through the process and help answer any queries you may have.’

In a recent report by the Office for National Statistics it was found that unvaccinated people in England were 32 times more likely to die of Covid-19 than those who have been fully vaccinated.

For Portsmouth council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, this was ‘worrying.’

He said: ‘In effect we have got a quarter of people in Portsmouth who can get the vaccine and have chosen not to. This is higher than the average across the country.

‘It’s a big risk you’re taking but also a big pressure on our hospitals and the rest of the NHS.

Ambulances backed up at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham on November 4.

‘So I think the single biggest contribution anybody could make to making sure QA is alright this winter is by getting jabbed, and then getting their booster when they can.

‘This is the beginning of flu season and things will only get worse. I was hopeful more people would get the vaccine because it has been a complete game changer.’

As reported by The News, the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) declared a ‘critical incident’ over the weekend of October 30-31 after being swamped with calls.

At the same time Covid case rates have been rising in the area.

In the week up to October 31 there were 884 new Covid cases in Portsmouth or 411.8 per 100,000 of the population. This is similar to the UK average where 412.4 out of 100,000 people tested positive in that week.

The chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth, Roger Batterbury, said: ‘Healthwatch Portsmouth (HWP) is aware that local health services have recently been under intense pressure recently, with SCAS calling a critical incident last weekend and reports of multiple ambulances queuing outside the emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital to offload their patients.

‘The interruption in flow through the hospital causes a ripple effect on patients, carers and people with emergency and urgent health issues who need to dial 999 and then are waiting to be conveyed to hospital.

‘HWP knows that lots of work within the local health and social care community has gone on recently to alert the public to other routes of help for their health concerns and issues.

‘Healthwatch would encourage anyone who is eligible and able to have the vaccine to have both doses of the Covid-19 vaccination as well as the flu virus jab.

‘The NHS advises that it is safe for people to have the flu and Covid booster vaccination at the same time.

‘The importance of getting vaccinated is for the benefit of everyone’s health – whether it’s for themselves, their friends or family.’

In reference to the disparity in vaccine rates Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said: ‘It’s concerning to see Portsmouth’s vaccination rates falling slightly behind regional and national averages. We must all play our part to get vaccinated and government must do more to reinvigorate its stalling vaccination programme.

‘Ministers should set a target of 500,000 booster jabs a day to increase numbers. Current figures are less than half of that.

‘Opening more pop-up vaccine clinics, utilising more community pharmacies and mobilising retired medics would also help.’

Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North, added: ‘We are winning the fight against Covid via the vaccine and people still doing their bit on basic hygiene and testing. However, the challenges facing healthcare are huge and the workforce is tired and having to cope with absences due to infections.

‘We can all still help by getting our booster shots for Covid and for flu. The more we step up and take responsibility the more we will be helping the NHS deal with the backlog.’

If anyone is unsure if they are eligible for a Covid vaccine or where they can get jabbed they can visit

People with any queries about eligibility and access to vaccination can also email [email protected]

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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Pictured is: Jennifer Slight (72) from Cosham, receiving her Covid-19 first vaccination. Picture: Sarah Standing (010221-1976)