Please note that this newsletter reflects the current position as at 1 February 2021. Planning and delivery of COVID-19 vaccination is subject to considerable change due to many different factors outside of our control. Please check our website for the latest information.
In this edition:
COVID-19 vaccination has now reached a new milestone, with over 23,000 vaccinations delivered through our programme in the county. This means that we have delivered over 8,000 vaccinations since last week’s bulletin – by far our largest weekly total.
I am particularly pleased that we reached this important milestone, as with snow forecast across the county we needed to take urgent steps to ensure that no vaccine was wasted.
It may be helpful to explain how our massive vaccination centres operate, in order to understand why adverse weather and travel disruption is such a threat.
On Thursday a weather alert was issued covering the whole of Powys. Snowfall was due from the early hours of Saturday, causing travel disruption right across the county.
We needed to think fast. Should we stick to our current plan and hope the snow did not come? Or, should we make sure we have a new plan so that vital vaccine doses were not wasted? For me this was an easy decision. We must make sure that no vaccine goes to waste.
So, from Thursday night our teams began working in earnest so that on Friday we could deliver two days of vaccination in a single day.
This was an enormous task:
Due the amazing efforts of our teams across the county, our wonderful volunteers, our partnership with Powys County council, and the support of Powys communities, we delivered two days of vaccination in a single day.
By the end of Friday evening we had used all of our supplies of Pfizer/BioNTech and we could close the centres for the weekend knowing that every drop had been used, and not a single drop was wasted. There was no Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine left to use on Saturday.
Our mass vaccination centres will now re-open as planned on Wednesday when our next supplies of Pfizer/BioNTech will be received and ready to use.
Waking up on Saturday morning the YELLOW weather warning was still in place, and snow was beginning to fall in many parts of the county. It did not come in the quantities that had been feared earlier in the week, but our Pfizer/BioNTech supplies had already been used for the week.
It was absolutely the right decision on Thursday night to get ahead of the weather forecast. In a rural county like Powys we need to make sure that staff and patients can travel safely to our vaccination centres. We must ensure that no vaccine goes to waste.
There will be some important learning from all our experiences on Friday, both for future adverse weather forecasts and also for our plans to expand our mass vaccination centres further when larger vaccine supplies are received.
So, what progress are we making with vaccination for people in Priority Groups 1 to 4 (who should expect their vaccination appointment by mid-February)?
We have also been able to make some important progress to respond to your feedback and all our learning from the programme so far:
My key messages this week are therefore:
Thank you for everything you are doing to Keep Powys Safe – and please do feel free to share this information in your organisations, networks and communities.
Carol Shillabeer, Chief Executive
Thousands of COVID-19 vaccination appointments are taking place via GP practices, with all 16 GP practices in Powys joining the vaccination programme last week.
Alongside the county’s three Mass Vaccination Centres (Bronllys Hospital, Royal Welsh Showground, Maldwyn Leisure Centre in Newtown) this brings the number of places you can receive the vaccine in Powys to nineteen.
Last week in Builth Wells, Practice Nurse Gill Gorton was one of the first people to give the COVID vaccine at a GP practice in Powys, administering it to Mrs Pat Borland from Builth Wells. Mrs Borland was pleased to receive the vaccine.
In Ystradgynlais Ian Stuttard was vaccinated by Julie James and was the first of over 600 people due to be vaccinated during the week by the practice team. He said “I feel privileged to be the first vaccine recipient. It could save my life. I appreciate the skills and hard work of all those involved in creating and distributing the vaccine.”
With the addition of GP vaccinations, Powys is currently aiming to deliver around 7,000 vaccines per week and it is expected that this capacity will increase as vaccine supply increases in the coming weeks.
Every person over the age of 80 should now have received a letter giving them a vaccination appointment. Anyone who has not received a letter can let us know by registering at https://pthb.nhs.wales/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccination/over-18-in-powys-and-not-received-an-invitation-to-vaccination/
In order to reduce the risk of people being given duplicate appointments and vaccine being potentially wasted, GP Practices are working to a list of patients supplied by the health board and are phoning patients to invite them for vaccination. Please do not call your GP directly for COVID vaccination at this time as they need their telephone capacity to make the outgoing calls to make the appointments.
The COVID-19 vaccination programme presents new challenges for cold chain management, and we work closely with practices when cold chain issues occur. This includes working together to rearrange vaccination appointments as quickly as possible:
As a small health board, our telephone systems are not used to dealing with booking appointments at this scale. We know that this has been frustrating for people trying to contact our Booking Centre.
But a new partnership with Powys County Council is addressing this. This week saw the move of the COVID-19 Vaccination call centre from Bronllys Hospital to Neuadd Brycheiniog, Brecon.
The new system takes the number of available call handlers from six to over 20, and the addition of a queuing system meaning that calls no longer get cut off when all lines are busy.
Powys Teaching Health Board is very grateful to Powys County Council for their support with the move and the use of their telephony system.
Carol Shillabeer, Chief Executive of the health board said “This is a great example of partnership working in Powys. COVID affects us all and by working collaboratively with the council we are able to answer more calls than ever before. In Powys we have already delivered over 20,000 vaccinations and we plan to continue to increase our capacity as we move forward. The additional capacity in the call centre will be instrumental in achieving this.”
Powys County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Corporate Governance, Engagement and Regulatory Services, Cllr Graham Breeze, said: “I’m really glad that we have been able to support the health board’s efforts to get as many people vaccinated against COVID-19, as quickly as possible, by providing telephony support.
“It is crucial that we all work together to tackle the public health crisis we are facing, as greater things can be achieved when we work in partnership.”
As well as providing the office space and technology behind the call centre, PCC have also helped with staffing the additional lines, creating a truly collaborative solution.
With new appointment letters landing on doorsteps today (1 February 2021), this was the first big test for the new call centre. With hundreds of calls coming in simultaneously, please accept our apologies that at times this did still mean there were some delays in getting through despite the major expansion in call capacity. This has provided learning to help us make further improvements.
We have talked about a few of the different teams who have worked tirelessly to deliver vaccinations to the public at our Mass Vaccination Centres over the past few weeks.
But what about the centres themselves? We certainly didn’t have three Mass Vaccination Centres in Powys last November. They seem to have appeared as if by magic almost overnight! But of course, the truth is that they were built at very short notice by the health board’s extremely talented Estates Team.
In Bronllys, Builth Wells and Newtown they have converted empty spaces to quickly become clinical vaccination centres. Each location had it’s own challenges; from upgrading electrics, installing IT infrastructure, building covered walkways, installing wayfinding signage, installing flooring, heating and lighting and of course building the vaccination lanes, admin hubs and reception areas, the Estates Team have been flexible and have adapted to the myriad challenges they have been presented with.
Carpenter Gareth Davies (though everyone knows him as ‘Gaz’) explained “Everywhere needed different things. In Builth Wells at the Showground we had to put up 30-40 banner signs just to help people find their way even before they get to the vaccine centre for traffic control. Then in some locations we had to install additional plumbing for new sinks. There were a team of about 8 of us carrying this all out.”
The Newtown Mass Vaccination Centre is the largest of the three in Powys. With 12 lanes it can vaccinate huge numbers of people at a time. The team took just six days to convert it from an empty shell to a fully operational vaccination centre.
Gaz meant it as a joke when he quipped “We did the impossible”. But I don’t think he was wrong.
Well done and thank you.
Criminals have been using fake emails and text messages about COVID-19 vaccination to try to gain access to people's financial information.
COVID-19 vaccination is free from the NHS. We will not ask for your financial information.
If you receive a suspicious email, which you are not quite sure about, forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you receive a suspicious text message this can be forwarded to 7726 (these are the numbers that spell out the word SPAM on your key pad). This free-of-charge short code enables your provider to investigate the origin of the text and take action, if found to be malicious.
Dyfed Powys Police advises everyone to ALWAYS:
Confirm requests are genuine by using a known number or email address to contact organisations directly.
Always check the URL of a website.
You are invited to the next online Q&A Event with our Chief Executive, Carol Shillabeer. This will be on Wednesday 3 February from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. It will provide an opportunity to update you on the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Powys, and answer your questions
How do I join?
You can join the session from most web browsers by clicking on this link.
When do I join?
You are welcome to join just before 5.30pm by clicking on the link above. The meeting will start shortly after 5.30pm to allow people time to join.
How do I participate?
This event will be provided through Microsoft Teams Live Event. It includes a Q&A function which allows you to ask questions. We regret that we may not have time to answer all the questions raised, but hope that the briefing will provide an opportunity to cover the main themes.
I cannot attend – will I still be able to watch?
If you cannot attend on the day, you can watch the event at any time using the web link.
I am having trouble joining
The briefing will be recorded so that it is available for people who have trouble joining, or who are not available to join us at 5.30pm. More information about being an attendee of a Microsoft Teams Live Event is available from the Microsoft website
Previous editions of our newsletter are available from our website. Last week’s edition included:
More information about our COVID-19 vaccination programme here in Powys is available from the Powys Teaching Health Board website:
More information about the national COVID-19 vaccination programme in Wales is available from the Public Health Wales website:
The latest information about the number of COVID-19 vaccination doses delivered in Wales is available from the Public Health Wales dashboard – please remember that PTHB has the smallest population of all health boards, and is around a third of the size of the next smallest health boards (Cwm Taf Morgannwg, Hywel Dda):
More information about the Welsh Government’s strategy for COVID-19 vaccination: