Louise Lydon, pharmacy contractor in South Tyneside with three pharmacies in Lydon Pharmacy Group, and chief officer of Gateshead and South Tyneside LPC, talks to Saša Janković about setting up a domiciliary Covid vaccination service.

Service type: Domiciliary Covid vaccinations.

Name of pharmacy: 22 community pharmacists from South Tyneside.

Name of lead pharmacist: Louise Lydon.

Why did you start offering this service?

We started on 23 January 2021, and the service ran until the end of April.

Many housebound patients are looked after by informal carers (such as a close relative) and find it difficult to visit a vaccination site. With that in mind, Gateshead and South Tyneside LPC worked with local healthcare commissioners to set up a vaccination service to go out to these patients – and their carers – running in conjunction with the Primary Care Network (PCN) vaccination site.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

Funding for the service came via the PCN vaccination site, and pharmacists received an activity payment.

What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo?

The idea came out of conversations we’d had about pharmacists wanting to help support the Covid-19 vaccination programme using their experience of providing NHS flu jabs, so our volunteers were already vaccination trained.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

A team of 22 community pharmacists in South Tyneside giving up their weekends from January to April to administer Covid-19 vaccinations to over 2,500 housebound patents in total in their own homes.

The service is fully integrated with the PCN vaccination site, using key NHS IT systems. Housebound patients were identified using GP practice lists, and extracted lists were contacted by workers supporting the PCN site. Patients eligible to receive the vaccine at home were then contacted by telephone three or four days before the visit, and were reassured that pharmacists would arrive wearing appropriate PPE and with their NHS identification. After we’d vaccinated them we updated the vaccination information in real time using PharmOutcomes in the patients’ own home, using a mobile device which links into GP systems to populate the patient record, and sat with the patient to make sure they didn’t have a reaction to the vaccine.

Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?

Not applicable.

How have patients responded to the service?

We had a fantastic response and people were so welcoming to us in their homes. I think everyone is really keen to have some sort of normal life again and be able to have people come back into the house.

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

In total we gave over 5,000 vaccinations by the end of the programme, as everyone has now had both doses. This meant some of the patients were seen again quicker than 12 weeks as we wanted to get everybody through before society opened up again. We extended the service to visit South Tyneside residents with learning difficulties in their own home, as it is often difficult for carers to get these people to come into the vaccination hubs, so having their vaccination at home is a safer and less stressful environment for them. So far we’ve seen more than 100 of these patients, and we also extend the service to any house-tied carer, and have vaccinated over 500 of these.

How much do you charge for the service?

It’s free to patients.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

It has been a massive project but also a real privilege. It’s a real team effort – with the idea coming out of our regular discussions with GPs, the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Council, and we must not ever forget what the pharmacists have done, giving up every weekend since January right though, including Easter weekend. We are now in discussions to develop this into a wider outreach programme with community pharmacists to do other things like this in the community.