Imperial College Health Partners’ support in the North West London Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

Background and context

With the start of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme in December 2020, North West London (NWL) was faced with having to organise one of its biggest vaccination programmes – with rapid turnaround times and new knowledge and guidelines emerging on a daily basis.

With major efforts from NHS bodies and local authorities across all eight NWL boroughs, the NWL Covid-19 Vaccination Programme was set-up and run by the NWL Collaboration of Health and Care Partnership, having administered its first vaccinations in December 2020.

Due to the unprecedented task, Imperial College Health Partners (ICHP) were asked to support the vaccination programme, working as one team alongside ICS colleagues

Within a short time, ICHP pulled together a multidisciplinary team with capabilities and experience including patient and community engagement, change and project management, data analysisand facilitating access to adequate NWL data sets such as the Whole Systems Integrated Care (WSIC) dataset. The ICHP team supported the vaccination programme over 10 months, from January to October 2021, and actively participated in the spread of the vaccination and ensuring the health and safety of the NWL population which at the time of writing (10/11/21) had administered over 3.3 million doses.

What did we do?

ICHP was able to support the system with extra resource and capabilities to meet the design, planning and implementation requirements of the complicated programming, taking on ad-hoc projects that required completion in a couple of days.

Our support for the vaccination programme was divided into three different work streams:

  1. Rapid Projects

The additional resource provided by ICHP also enabled the rapid delivery of often complex, ambiguous and time-pressured projects.

Within these, ICHP developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which allowed the fast and efficient administration of the Covid-19 vaccination to particular population groups, such as housebound residents and those in care homes, as well as asylum seekers, homeless people and NWL residents with a registered learning disability.

In addition, we helped to ensure that the wealth of resources and experience of volunteering and community organisations was effectively integrated in the NWL Covid-19 vaccination programme. ICHP collaborated with local authorities and organisations in the community to develop community engagement models including the integration of community champions who helped to educate the community about the vaccination and provided support in residents’ decision-making of getting the vaccine.

Additionally, ICHP led on an evaluation of volunteer deployment in NWL vaccination centres, with its rapid turnaround and valuable insight helped to design the volunteering support in NWL vaccination centres throughout the programme.

2. Specialist input

ICHP also supported the NWL Covid-19 vaccination programme with input for specialist challenges. In the 10 months that we supported the programme, a virtuous portfolio of specialist project outputs was developed.

At the start of our support, ICHP identified a gap in local data reporting and developed jointly with NWL data analysts, a vaccine stakeholder data report, as well as a vaccine equity report, which were distributed to over 100 NWL stakeholders on a weekly basis. These data reports not only supported the local vaccination sites and authorities in organising and monitoring the daily administration of vaccinations, but also helped to identify low vaccination uptake in certain NWL populations and thus aimed at reducing inequalities in the local NWL population. In addition, these weekly reports supported the development of new vaccine interventions such as one of the first ‘vaxi taxis’ in Kensington & Chelsea which provided education as well as the Covid-19 vaccine itself right in people’s living environments and thus aimed at reducing access barriers to the vaccination. These mobile models of vaccination became a typical model across London.

Early in the vaccination roll-out the national booking system was not yet live and health and social care workers did not have an effective booking channel, despite being eligible and at risk. ICHP sourced and helped implement SimplyBook, an online booking system which had been rolled out across all NWL vaccination sites and led to over 12,700 bookings in three months.

ICHP also facilitated the collaboration between Westminster borough and colleagues from Imperial College London.  This enabled an innovative, real-world trial in which behavioural-science informed, vaccination invitation text messages and letters were sent to Westminster residents to evaluate whether different content could increase vaccination uptake among the borough’s residents. The trial itself was a great success – having managed to set-up a research trial alongside the daily pressures of the vaccination programme, this resulted in almost 70,000 behavioural-science informed text messages and 10,000 letters having been sent to Westminster residents. Outcomes will be available end of November.

3. Supporting the vaccination central programme team:

ICHP provided additional capacity to help support on some of the core activities needed by the central programme team such as NHSE and local data reporting and representing the NWL Integrated Care System (ICS) at NHSE/I meetings. The additional resource provided by ICHP also allowed the central programme team to work in a seven-day rota, enabling  the team to respond to emerging priorities as effectively and quickly as possible.

How has this helped to create a healthier population?

Due to the amazing efforts of everyone in the NWL Covid-19 vaccination programme, NWL has by now administered over 3.28 million Covid-19 vaccinations, with over 1.6 million first doses, 1.4 million second doses and 226,000 booster vaccinations (NWL Vaccination Stakeholder Report, 04/11/2021). The vaccine stakeholder data report, which aids ongoing monitoring and intervention creation is still used for stakeholder communication to this day.

Further, our vaccine equity report has helped local authorities and CCGs to identify population groups with low vaccination uptake.

Through ICHP’s support, NWL was able to ensure that a vaccine was offered to everyone with learning disabilities (LD), and that tailored specialist LD support was offered when needed, i.e. by having run a desensitisation programme for those with needle phobia. Over 80% of NWL residents have by now had their first dose Covid-19 vaccination (Source: Foundry 01/11/21 in NWL Vaccination Stakeholder Report, 04/11/2021).

More recently, we’ve supported the design and roll-out of the NWL schools programme with the Covid-19 vaccination and facilitated the lessons learnt between headteachers, local authorities and the vaccine team helping to optimise the vaccination programme and distributing best practice.