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Switch in West Berkshire Covid-19 vaccination rollout down to size and local knowledge

Hub at Newbury Racecourse now focusing on 16-64s with certain underlying health conditions

John Herring

John Herring


01635 886633

Over-70s urged to contact NHS for coronavirus vaccine from Wednesday

A switch in West Berkshire's vaccination programme has been made because of better local knowledge of patients, health officials have said. 

GP-led sites are now being asked by the government and NHS England to invite patients aged 16-64 with certain underlying conditions and adult carers for vaccinations at the Newbury Vaccination Centre at Newbury Racecourse. 

The switch has been made because of the cohort’s size and local knowledge councillors heard on Monday. 

Previously, residents aged 65 to 69 were told that if they had received a letter offering a mass vaccination site they could wait to have their jab at the racecourse.

But the Government has now advised the racecourse hub to focus on those aged 16 to 64 with certain underlying health conditions, meaning those aged 65 to 69 will have to book at bigger centres out of district.

The conditions include:
• Chronic respiratory disease
• Chronic heart disease and vascular disease
• Chronic kidney disease
• Chronic liver disease
• Chronic neurological disease, including severe or profound learning disability
• Diabetes mellitus
• Immunosuppression
• Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen
• Morbid obesity
• Severe mental illness

The nearest mass vaccination sites are in Swindon, Basingstoke and Oxford.

Unpaid carers are also included in cohort (Cohort 6), defined as "those in receipt of a carer's allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ills." 

The vaccination hub said that people aged over 65 with any of these conditions would receive a letter asking them to book at a mass vaccination site with other patients in the 65-69 age group.

"We appreciate the frustration that this decision taken nationally has caused locally but we do ask patients aged 65-69 to take up their vaccination elsewhere if they can. Our supplies of the vaccine are lower over the next couple of weeks so this will be your quickest option," GPs said. 

The Newbury Vaccination Centre at Newbury Racecourse has vaccinated more than 17,000 people since it was established last month, and has hit the target of vaccinating over-70s by mid-February.

The centre, being used by nine West Berkshire GP surgeries, said it had been expecting to contact patients aged 65 to 69 this week.

But now they have been advised to not routinely call in the over 65s. 

Falkland Surgery, one of the nine using the racecourse, said that people aged 65-69 who would prefer to attend the racecourse can do so via the website using the “ask the practice a question” contact form.

Responding to the change in guidance, deputy director of Public Health Berkshire, Meradin Peachey, said: “The reason they are doing that is because the largest group is the people with long-term conditions, and the only people that can really identify them properly is through general practice through their registers.

“What they’d like is for primary care networks (PCNs) to really focus on people with long-term conditions.

“For the people aged over 65 and then over-60s they will be invited to the bigger centres.

“It may well take a month for GPs to get through all the people with underlying conditions.

“It is the largest group, so not everyone will be called straight away.

“The 65 to 70 is a much smaller group so that’s why they’ve been contacted a lot sooner.

 “People don’t really need to contact their GP or anyone else, they will be contacted.

“You may get a letter nationally or you may get one from your GP; if you’re a concern your GP will contact you anyway.

“I think what GPs don’t need is lots of people contacting them at the moment.”

Chief executive of Carers UK, said: Helen Walker, said: “Being called for the vaccine in this next phase will bring many unpaid carers a huge sense of relief, having carefully managed the risk of the virus to themselves and their older or disabled relatives for almost a year.

"Carers should wait to be called to book an appointment, and once vaccinated some of the hardest-pressed carers will be able to access support with their caring role for the first time in many months.

"This will be the biggest identification programme of unpaid carers ever carried out and should see more carers connected to local support systems."

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Article comments

  • Villager

    18/02/2021 - 12:17

    I can't see why they couldn't have cleared the group 5 people first as planned. There can't be more than 5,000 in the 65-69 group, so it would only have taken a few days to vaccinate them all as they were getting through more than a thousand a day. I've been to Oxford to get done, but not everyone can drive.


  • Andy the fiddler

    18/02/2021 - 10:22

    Generally not impressed. This could and should have been forecast then us in band 5 (56>69) could have been prepared for it. Now we are being bumped down the list as second class citizens. I'm not saying it is wrong just that the planners and logistics should have put this in place correctly at day 1. I'm off to Oxford on Tuesday, mind you I was offered a slot in Pinner!


  • col

    17/02/2021 - 14:47

    So nowhere for the healthy 65s-69s to get vaccinated in West Berkshire then. So much for no-one having to travel more than ten miles. None of the national NHS vaccination sites closest to West Berks are readily accessible by public transport from West Berks so heaven help anyone who cannot get to these places by car. Not good at all.