Volunteers have spoken of a ‘humiliating’ four months after Epsom Downs racetrack administered its final jabs as a vaccination center.
It opened as a vaccination site in January and will move away as Epsom Downs returns as a race site for the next roadmap stop starting Monday, May 17.
The vaccination center has two sides – the GP side for those who are invited to come by their GP (transferred to Leatherhead Hospital after his last day on Friday May 14), and the other side, the vaccination center Mass of the NHS where people book it themselves (moving to Sandown Racecourse after its last day on Saturday May 15th).
While the vaccination itself was left to those with more training, volunteers played a crucial role in the process – responsibilities included meeting and greeting, directing people to their chairs, wiping down chairs and even offer stickers.
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âWe ended up being there in a relatively short time and had to mobilize the service fairly quickly,â says Vicky Churchill, who oversaw the GP hub side at Epsom Downs.
âIt’s a very special place – I could never expect this to be my workplace! It’s a huge operation and it’s very calm and welcoming.
Vicky is part of GP Health Partners Ltd, which according to COO Andrew Roscoe administered 61,225 vaccines (39,498 1st doses and 21,727 2 doses) at the end of Thursday, May 13, the majority of which were on the Epsom site. They also worked with more difficult to reach groups such as the homeless and GRT communities (Gypsies, Roma and Travelers).
Although this program is on a different scale than in the UK, vaccination is still something the NHS and GPs are used to doing.
Vicky says, âIt’s interesting how different people react. As we went through it, we saw more and more being very worried about it. We had to deal with all the problems associated with each vaccination. It was an interesting trip.
With the GP hub needing at least 12 volunteers per day, they needed a lot of input from the public, but there was no shortage of staff and the operation was even quite sociable. Vicky says the people she only saw during the school run became friends throughout the process.
A volunteer in attendance on Friday May 14 is Sue Colton, a business psychologist who works daily. She has been volunteering at Epsom Downs since February, having worked 30 to 40 shifts of approximately four hours during that time.
She says, âIt’s humiliating, I would say, and really gratifying. It’s a happy place to be in general, everyone feels they are doing something for the national effort. We wouldn’t be here without the patients, the administration or the medical staff. “
âThe most important thing is to talk to people and listen to their stories. Lots of them want to chat, especially at first when some of them haven’t been out for months and have had other contacts. Some of them were almost in tears, overwhelmed by the thought.
Another volunteer, Jennifer Russell, is retired, but has lent her services to the center after volunteering for the first time at Reigate.
She noticed the difference in attitudes as she passed through the different age groups.
âWhen we started, we had old people who hadn’t walked for months. But none of them complained. As we go down the ages people got a little more nervous.
She even tells us that she spoke to younger people who admitted to only getting vaccinated so they could go on vacation!
It is by no means just Epsom residents that they care for, with people coming from all over Surrey and beyond, which people are happy to do.
But even people outside the catchment area have made the decision to travel. Jennifer says: “People are so thankful to be in UK [vaccination programme]. I even had people who flew over from Belgium, who also have a house here, because they are slow in Belgium, in particular to get vaccinated!
It echoes the fantastic environment of Epsom Downs – one team member even brought a cake for their last day.
SurreyLive photographer Grahame Larter was one of the many vaccinated at Epsom Downs.
He said, âIt was like clockwork, really. Came in, was shown to a series of stations where they took your name and contact details. It was right in a booth, where, in my case, an army medic looked at my contact details and kicked me off on the spot. It was a case of blinking and you miss it! I sat for 15 minutes, then returned to the car.