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Fully trained vaccine volunteers are turned away from giving jabs

Fully trained vaccine volunteers with medical backgrounds are turned away from giving jabs while GPs and nurses are ‘paid overtime rates’ to do the job instead

  • EXC: St John Ambulance trained 30,000 volunteers for UK’s vaccination drive 
  • Ex-NHS worker Christine Livingston unable to book shift since passing course 
  • She claims positions in Yorkshire are largely being filled by registered medics 
  • Another retired nurse attended shifts in Sheffield and was unable to vaccinate 

Christine Livingston, who retired from the NHS in 2014, completed ten hours of online learning with St John Ambulance in February

Volunteers with medical backgrounds who have completed hours of training to give Covid-19 vaccinations are being turned away from the job, it has emerged.

St John Ambulance has trained 30,000 volunteers across three roles since the vaccination rollout began in December, including former healthcare workers who have offered their time to give jabs.

However, volunteers in Yorkshire have claimed many roles are instead being filled by registered GPs and nurses – some of whom are allegedly being paid overtime rates.

Christine Livingston, who retired from the NHS in 2014, completed ten hours of online learning in February before undertaking an interview and a day of in-person training with SJA.

Since finishing the course, the former senior clinician claims she has been unable to work as a vaccinator despite trying to book shifts at several sites in Yorkshire.

Another retired nurse, who worked in healthcare for 35 years, yesterday completed her third shift in Sheffield, but said SJA volunteers were only used to guide the public through the centre or to offer support following vaccinations. 

The ex-Macmillan nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, added around 20 registered nurses are typically in attendance: ‘Which seems like an awful lot of waste really.’ 

St John Ambulance has trained 30,000 volunteers across three roles since the vaccination rollout began in December, including former health workers who have offered their time to give jabs. Pictured: Stock image

Volunteers have claimed many vaccinator roles in Yorkshire are instead being filled by paid GPs and nurses – some of whom are allegedly being compensated with overtime rates 

She added: ‘It’s just really frustrating because there are lots of us there who are capable of vaccinating.

‘As there are fewer Covid patients now being admitted, services are going back to normal so it seems like the right time to hand over the majority of vaccinations to non-NHS staff.

‘Obviously there need to be some there to monitor, but it’s just such an intensive thing. 

‘[On Thursday] there were 16 booths open [for vaccines] and there might be 20 registered nurses which seems like an awful lot of waste really.’

Ms Livingston believes people with medical backgrounds, like herself, should be giving jabs so current NHS staff are able to work in hospitals, addressing a backlog in treatment which has grown during the pandemic.

‘I haven’t been able to find any volunteering shifts except in a post-vaccination carer role,’ she said. 

‘As a retired healthcare professional I find it quite an affront, I’m willing to do it for free as are several people in my social circle who are in the same situation. 

‘I think it’s quite scandalous to be honest. We could release many of the registered staff so they can support the hospitals and address the surgical backlog or backfill to allow exhausted ITU staff some much needed time off.’

The former NHS worker has attempted to secure shifts in Doncaster, Sheffield, Hull and Huddersfield but has so far been unsuccessful.  

Last week, four shifts she volunteered for at the John Smith Stadium vaccination centre in Huddersfield were cancelled with little explanation. 

In a memo seen by MailOnline, the SJA noted it was aware volunteers had been ‘disappointed’ that they were unable to vaccinate at the site. 

They added there had been a ‘delay in the sign off on some NHS paperwork’ which allows SJA volunteers to give jabs at the stadium. 

‘I think we are all feeling incredibly frustrated and we think it is a bit disingenuous because all these people are capable and places are being filled [by medics] when it’s not necessary,’ Ms Livingston said.

‘SJA have responded to the challenge magnificently to fulfil the contract the NHS set, developing the training programme, recruiting and assessing the volunteers.’  

A second retired healthcare worker – who was a nurse for 35 years – has also volunteered her time to SJA.

But despite her medical background, she has been unable to vaccinate, and has spent her three shifts in Sheffield helping support people following their jabs.

She said: ‘They tend to put the SJA volunteers at the back where people come out after the vaccine, so if anyone feels a bit faint then we’re there to help and provide information.’ 

Volunteers learn how to administer an injection during a vaccinator training day lesson ran by the St John’s Ambulance in Canary Wharf, east London in January

Nick Gray, a St Johns Ambulance vaccinator gives the AstraZeneca vaccine at St John’s Church, in Ealing, London, in March

Regardless of her frustration, the former nurse has commended SJA – which is largely made up of volunteers – for doing a ‘fantastic job’ when recruiting thousands. 

SJA has trained Britons in three roles: vaccinator, care volunteer and patient advocate. The latter two roles are not clinical, and can also be carried out by those trained to vaccinate. 

Volunteers are operating in 18 vaccination sites across the North East and Yorkshire, but SJA was unable to confirm how many sites currently have active vaccinators. 

It was announced in November that SJA had been contracted by the NHS as a ‘workforce partner’ to prepare thousands of volunteers for the vaccine rollout.

More than 25million people in the UK have so-far received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including three million in the North East and Yorkshire. 

Four shifts Ms Livingston volunteered for at the John Smith Stadium vaccination centre in Huddersfield (pictured) were last week cancelled with little explanation 

The charity’s 30,000 volunteers are all required to meet ‘strict selection criteria’ before receiving ‘appropriate clinical training, including official courses developed in partnership with and approved by NHS England.’

SJA also confirmed last year that all vaccinators will be ‘supervised by clinicians’.        

Those who have completed training are able to book shifts through an app, but Ms Livingston claims the only available roles close to her home in Doncaster are in the advocate or post care positions.

She said: ‘There’s absolutely none anywhere locally, it’s just advocates or post care, but no vaccinator roles at all.’

The mother-of-one, who worked for the NHS for 42 years, suggested some medics and nurses may be ‘racing in’ to take on extra hours in place of those who have volunteered.

When questioned on this allegation, NHS England did not deny that medics in the North East and Yorkshire are being paid overtime rates to give jabs. 

Ms Livingston said: ‘All these people who are being trained by SJA have given time and enthusiasm. They’re trying to come forward to help and then being sidelined because registered healthcare professionals are covering the centres.

‘I just think we could be using registered health professionals more efficiently in the hospitals and leave people like us, with supervision, to do the bulk of the vaccination work.’ 

Queues of Britons wait outside the John Smith’s Stadium vaccination centre in Huddersfield

She alleged that her local co-ordinator admitted SJA volunteers are not being used to vaccinate anywhere in Doncaster, Sheffield, Hull, Scunthorpe and Huddersfield. 

Ms Livingston worked for the NHS for 42 years, with the last 26 spent as a senior clinical midwife in charge of a Delivery Suite at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. 

SJA told MailOnline its volunteers have given 75,000 hours of their time since January, with ‘much more to come.’

The charity stressed that the demand for each role depends on the needs of the local area, adding: ‘Our people are delivering everything that’s asked of them’.

A statement said: ‘NHS demand for St John volunteers has varied depending on local needs. 

‘We know people are keen to make a positive difference to their communities, and we’re grateful for our volunteers’ patience as activity ramps up across the whole country.

‘St John Ambulance is active at more than 100 vaccination centres across England with further sites coming on line in late March and early April.’ 

The NHS said it currently has enough volunteers to deliver the vaccine available, and has been recruiting more people who will be drafted in as supplies are secured. 

A spokesman for NHS North East and Yorkshire said: ‘Vaccinating over three million people in the North East and Yorkshire has been supported thanks to the hard work and dedication of thousands volunteers, alongside NHS staff, and they will continue to play a key part in our vaccination drive in line with available supply as our programme continues to accelerate.’ 

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