Frustration as Government sidelines local health teams in coronavirus vaccine roll-out

Wigan Council’s director of public health, Prof Kate Ardern, used her personal Twitter account to express exasperation at how the Government is handling a crucial stage of the pandemic.

Thursday, 12th November 2020, 7:00 am

Reports this week have said that the military and NHS would be tasked with providing vaccinations for Covid.

Officially the position of the public sector in Wigan is that it is too early to discuss any details of Covid-19 vaccines, with the health service poised to lead any programme.

But on her personal social media account Prof Ardern laid into the way town halls do not seem to have been given a role to play by Westminster.

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There is local frustration at the Government's plans to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine

In response to a national media article about the plans for vaccination, she asked: “Why yet again are parallel systems being set up without involving DPH’s [directors of public health] and local government?”

In another message Prof Ardern said public health bosses “already have mass vaccination plans as part of local outbreak control” and authorities, including those in Wigan, had already been using them in the autumn for the flu vaccination programme.

It is not the first time during the coronavirus pandemic that Prof Ardern has lashed out at the Government over how centralised its reponse has been.

In an interview with the Wigan Observer Prof Ardern called for much of the handling of Covid-19, including track and trace and support mechanisms for those having to isolate, to be done at a local level.

Wigan Council director of public health Prof Kate Ardern

Wigan has also been lined up as one of 66 local authorities in England where mass testing for Covid-19 will be rolled out.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said new rapid turnaround lateral flow tests available, which can deliver results within an hour, will be used.

Mr Hancock wrote to every director of public health in the country offering mass testing.

However, when Wigan Today asked the council for further details about this the response was that it was too soon to say more.

The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) posted a thread on Twitter following the announcement, again raising concerns over a lack of communication from the Government.

Jeanelle de Gruchy, the association’s president, said: “Despite this being announced as the ‘next stage of partnership between NHS Test and Trace and local directors of public health’, we were deeply disappointed not to receive advanced notice.

“We await details of the access to training and clinical and operational guidance and funding that will be essential in delivering this testing expansion at a local level.”