Vaccination bus partnership to increase vaccination take-up in Newcastle

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GNE has provided a converted Optare Solo as a mobile vaccination centre. GNE

Go North East (GNE) is working in partnership with Newcastle GP Services (NGPS), Newcastle City Council and community and voluntary sector partners to provide an outreach vaccination bus in the city.

The operator has converted one of its buses into a new mobile Covid-19 vaccination unit that will travel the local area visiting communities who are unable to get to vaccination centres, or where uptake has proved low, helping to make access easier and encourage more people to get their vaccination.

The bus will initially visit hostels in Newcastle, to vaccinate members of the homeless community, and Newcastle Muslim Centre, and is part of work being delivered to address health inequalities in the area.

NGPS has been running the vaccination programme at Gosforth Racecourse and Newcastle Eagles Community Arena since December and, working with Collaborative Newcastle partners, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue service and others, has vaccinated more than 45,000 people in Newcastle.

The vaccination bus is normally one of GNE’s Little Coasters fleet, operating from its Percy Main depot, and has been converted to house a waiting room area, two registration desks and two vaccination points, plus an annexe tent, with a one-way system operating through the vehicle thanks to fold down steps added at the rear.

240v electric points, in-situ heating, lighting, and WiFi have all been added to a sustainable battery electric system board which is charged by the bus when driving between locations and supplemented by a solar panel on the roof.

The work was undertaken in house by GNE’s engineering teams in just a week, and partners Icomera and Sure helped by supplying upgraded WiFi and a reversing camera. The bus will continue to be driven, housed, maintained, and cleaned by GNE, whilst staff from GP practices and NPGS will deliver the vaccinations and handle patient administration. Their work is conducted in a private area on board behind a privacy screen, and the windows have been frosted for added privacy.

Martijn Gilbert, Managing Director at Go North East, said: “We are delighted to be playing a further part in the exceptionally important vaccination effort, which is essential to both people’s health and wellbeing, and the re-starting of the country’s economy.

“Our engineering team has delivered a rapid transformation of the bus and we are immensely proud to be working with local NHS and health care partners on this innovative new service.”