Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the unique COVID-19 vaccination facility at Derby Arena on Monday 8 February.
Mr Johnson met staff and volunteers at the Arena, which hosts two parallel vaccination efforts under one roof. One is a local vaccination service, run by 30 GP practices for local people, and the other is a vaccination centre, managed by Derbyshire Community Health Services (DCHS) NHS Foundation Trust.
The Prime Minister met the clinical directors of both sites, praising the work done by all the teams in delivering thousands of vaccinations since operations began at the Arena on January 7.
Dr Drew Smith, from Wilson Street Surgery in Derby is leading the GP-led service, said: “The Prime Minister’s visit today is in part recognition of the monumental efforts of general practice and primary care teams to provide vaccinations for our patients.
Dr Smith, who is also maintaining his regular clinical duties, said: “The Prime Minister reinforced the message that we should continue to vaccinate as many people as possible, working our way through the cohorts of patients to collectively beat the virus.”
William Jones, chief operating officer for DCHS, said today’s visit was a recognition of the efforts of everyone involved in the vaccination programme: “I’m really proud that the Prime Minister has visited us today to see the culmination of all the hard work and determination of people across the whole local NHS system to put this vaccination programme together.
“It’s a wonderful morale boost and huge endorsement of the commitment all our volunteers and staff are making to ensure this is successful in vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as possible.”
Dr Rick Meredith, who has come out of retirement to take on the role of clinical lead for the vaccination centre, said it was important to recognise the efforts of the hundreds of people involved: “We have a lot of retired people – including former medical directors, surgeons and community NHS staff – who have come out of retirement specifically to help with the vaccination effort. Many of us feel it is the most fulfilling work we have ever done in our professional lives
Dr Meredith, who is the former medical director for DCHS, said: “It’s great to see staff from so many different organisations working together and the collaboration between us all, helping each other out at times of pressure. We greatly appreciate the help we are receiving from our volunteers and also from the Arena staff.”
Vaccinator Sharna Peach answered the call to join the Arena vaccination team in January while on a work break from her role as a practice nurse at Gresleydale Health Centre, in Swadlincote. Speaking of her involvement in the Arena vaccination programme, she said: “Every day is different, with different challenges and increasing patient volumes. Working on the vaccination programme has really reawakened my passion for nursing. It feels as though this is something which will help us get out of the pandemic.”
Former Derbyshire hospital consultant Mike James is one of the hundreds of retired NHS staff who have come out of retirement to support the vaccination effort at Derby Arena. Dr James Mike, who was a specialist urologist in Chesterfield and Derby for 21 years, said: “Everyone here has a sense that this is going to get the country out of the pandemic. That’s why people are here, giving up their time, to make that happen.”