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Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service steps up to support the Covid-19 vaccination programme

Over the last few weeks volunteers from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have been supporting the vaccination programme at Newcastle Racecourse and the Nightingale Hospital in Washington.

At Newcastle Racecourse the TWFRS team are supporting Newcastle General Practice Services by managing all non-clinical aspects of the vaccination centre, playing a critical role in executive decision making, patient movements through the vaccination pods, resource management, volunteer briefing and welfare arrangements.

And similarly at the Nightingale Hospital the TWFRS team are marshalling, ensuring safe patient flow through the pods and supporting the NHS staff in the recovery area.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said: “Our staff and volunteers have not only adapted to new ways of working in their primary roles, they have also stepped up to support our partners and communities – for example, by distributing PPE, delivering food parcels as well as sadly, assisting in the movement of bodies and more recently offering support in the vaccination rollout.

“The safety of TWFRS employees has always been my first priority and this was recently recognised by HMICFRS, who highlighted our efforts to identify vulnerable groups early and put appropriate measures in place to protect the health and wellbeing of all staff. We’re in the process of introducing routine coronavirus testing and all of our procedures, for both our statutory work and additional activities, are thoroughly risk assessed in collaboration with key stakeholders.

We stand ready, willing and able to do our bit and where it is safe to do so, we will continue to help our partners however we can.

At Newcastle Racecourse the volunteers have erected spare long tents from the Service to provide much needed protection from the ever-changing North East weather for the vulnerable patients attending appointments.

Rebecca Haynes, Chief Operating Officer of Newcastle GP Services who are responsible for the vaccination sites at the Eagles and Racecourse, said: “We have been bowled over by the response from TWFRS.

“When we contacted them and explained how some of our team hadn’t had a day off in seven weeks, it took them just two days to help us out, sending over a highly skilled team who hit the ground running and even improved the site for our patients. We are exceptionally grateful and look forward to this being the start of a long-term collaboration between primary care and the fire service. We’re definitely a better team for having them on board.”

Prof. Neil Watson, who is heading up the vaccination programme at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “I’m very proud of the valuable work that all our volunteers are doing and the impact it is having on people’s lives. Please know that we could not do this without your hard work and energy. We are extremely grateful.”