Whitehall snubbing offers from local councils to help with Covid vaccinations

Two aspects of this article caught Owl’s eye, the main one is yet another example of councils being sidelined:

“Offers to transform thousands of leisure centres, libraries and civic buildings into vaccination hubs are being rebuffed by Whitehall and NHS chiefs, The Times can disclose.”

And, in the detail, there is this quote from a London council source which Owl reads in the context of Monday’s announcement that  96% of the population is within 10 miles of a vaccine service.

“London leaders say that the promise of a vaccination centre within ten miles of a household was unsuitable in the capital. “Ten miles is a long way across in pandemic-stricken London,” “

If ten miles is a long way in London, what is it like in rural Devon?

Sean O’Neill, Chief Reporter | Neil Johnston www.thetimes.co.uk 

English councils are ready to open buildings, redeploy staff and arrange community minibuses to transport elderly people to receive their jabs. Conservative and Labour council leaders are frustrated that they are being bypassed and say that the vaccine programme is run by “national edict”.

Concerns about the government’s strategy include the emergence of vaccine blindspots such as Spalding, Lincolnshire, where no vaccination centres are yet open and the first injections are expected this weekend. Elderly and vulnerable people have been left to queue in the cold because small centres have no waiting facilities.

Steve Reed, the shadow local government secretary, said last night that it was “mission critical” that ministers used local government expertise to speed up vaccinations. He said: “The government must not repeat the earlier mistakes of overcentralising the response to the pandemic which led to failures on PPE distribution, contact tracing and testing.” Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, will repeat that call today and urge the use of more than 11,000 community pharmacies.

Lord Porter of Spalding, Conservative leader of South Holland council in Lincolnshire, said that he was “massively concerned” at the lack of provision for his largely rural area. “We’ve offered redundant buildings, we’ve got a community hospital they are not using. The answer we get back is ‘No thanks, we don’t need it, we are all sorted.’ ”

The Labour leaders of Waltham Forest and Greenwich boroughs in London have written to Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine minister, saying that councils are ready to take some of the pressure off the overstretched NHS. Clare Coghill, of Waltham Forest, who offered the use of five leisure centres, said: “I believe a failure to harness our collective strength fully could lead to more unnecessary deaths.”

London leaders say that the promise of a vaccination centre within ten miles of a household was unsuitable in the capital. “Ten miles is a long way across in pandemic-stricken London,” said one council source.

Louise Gittins, Labour leader of Cheshire West and Chester council, said provision in her borough ranged from small GP surgeries, where people queued in the street, to a wedding venue only accessible by car. “This is a top down approach again when it should be bottom up,” she said. “We have good relations with our local NHS but their hands are tied by national edicts.”

A spokesman said the government was “hugely grateful for all offers of support and assistance as we continue to expand the biggest vaccination programme in this country’s history. This is a huge national effort and the NHS is putting into practice the decades of experience it has in delivering large-scale vaccination programmes.”