Council and NHS leaders are taking the opportunity to thank staff across local authorities and the health and social care system for their tireless efforts to provide services and support communities and the most vulnerable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Published: Monday, 7th February 2022
The pandemic has led to profound and far-reaching changes to the way we all work and access services, with staff across the NHS and local authorities working in partnership to rapidly stand up new services, and deliver services in new ways.
Some of the successes include the rollout of Oxfordshire’s COVID-19 vaccination programme; providing care and support to vulnerable residents; continuing the provision of health services; securing the continuity of other frontline services such as waste and recycling services and other social care services; establishing a local contact tracing system to supplement the national effort; and setting up a countywide COVID secure team to provide advice to local businesses.
In December 2020, the NHS and local authorities began the enormous task of rolling out the largest-ever mass vaccination programme in the UK’s history. The Oxfordshire Vaccination Delivery Board was set up to oversee the programme, comprising of members from the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS Provider Trusts, GP Clinical Leads, Oxfordshire’s public health team, the county council and city and district councils, and the Oxfordshire Association of Care Providers. The board oversaw the establishment of two hospital vaccination hubs, 21 GP-led local vaccination sites, a mass vaccination centre at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, local pharmacies across the county, walk-in pop-up vaccine clinics, roving clinics with the ‘Health on the Move’ bus, and school immunisation programmes.
Since the first vaccine was delivered on 8 December 2020 at the Churchill Hospital, more than 1.5 million vaccinations have been administered to residents of Oxfordshire. This includes nearly 223,000 booster jabs since the rapid expansion of the programme on 13 December 2021, which equates to a near 90 per cent take-up by those eligible.
Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: "This is an opportunity to recognise the tireless efforts of council staff and NHS colleagues throughout the pandemic.
"Everyone has worked tremendously hard in the face of adversity to continue to provide us with the support we need during difficult times and we owe them a huge debt of thanks.
"Of course, COVID is still present and continues to represent a significant risk. We must all, therefore, continue to do what we can to support our frontline workers."
Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “Key workers have proved their worth many times over during the pandemic. Those who empty our bins have coped with much higher waste and recycling levels, the NHS have delivered millions of vaccines and pioneered new treatments, while council staff have adapted to deliver new grant schemes, advise on COVID regulations, and help with contact tracing.
“With the pandemic still present, it is important that we continue to respect and support all those delivering essential services in Oxfordshire.”
Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthier Oxford, said: “On behalf of the council and the city, I want to say a huge thank you to key workers for getting us through the last two years of the pandemic. In the NHS, care homes, shops, schools, transport, bin collections and so much more, they have made sure the most important services kept going when so many others were asked to stay at home. To key workers I want to say, we know you and your families have faced extra stresses and extra risks to support us all. We know that behind masks there have been tears, doubts and fears, thank you from all of us to all of you for being there every day we needed you.
“I must add a message to all Oxford residents: the best way we can say thank you is to stay aware of the pandemic and keep protecting each other.”
Councillor David Rouane, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “I know all those in our district would want to join me in publicly thanking the tremendous work done by key workers throughout this pandemic.
“And we must remember it is not over yet – our communities will continue to need their help. This is why we will carry on giving our key workers support and showing them the huge gratitude they deserve.”
Councillor Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “At a time of national emergency, our key workers stepped up and tirelessly provided vital services to our communities.
“From ensuring essential services continued to run for residents − such as emptying bins or administering much-needed grants and financial support schemes to help residents and businesses − to our health colleagues delivering vaccines, the contributions of key workers have been invaluable.
“We cannot thank them enough for keeping not just our districts running, but the whole county.”
Councillor Michele Mead, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Key workers in West Oxfordshire have contributed so much during the pandemic. They have helped to make the new normal possible in these difficult times − from council staff, all the NHS staff who have gone above and beyond their duty along with inspirational workers and countless volunteers within the community who assisted all those in need. Their work saw us through this unprecedented time of struggle and loss.
“Whilst we still have COVID with us, we have adapted our way of life for a better, safer future, which we could only have done with key workers and their invaluable assistance.”
Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery, Chair of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I am incredibly proud of our staff’s response to the pandemic, and the dedication, hard work, commitment, and compassion they continue to show. It has been an incredibly challenging two years, and the vital care they have provided has been at the heart of Oxfordshire’s response to COVID.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have worked together with our colleagues across the health and social care system. COVID is not yet behind us, and we would ask people to continue to do all that they can to keep themselves and those around them safe.”
Dr David Chapman, Clinical Chair at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Thank you to everyone who has contributed to delivering the vaccination programme over the past year, and those who have ensured critical health and care services have been delivered for the people of Oxfordshire. The extraordinary way we have worked together across the NHS, local authorities, the voluntary sector and communities has been fantastic.
“We must especially thank GP practices and their primary care networks (PCNs) which have been at the forefront of delivering vaccines to 70% of the population in Oxfordshire, including the housebound, care homes and some of the most vulnerable patients, ably supported by scores of volunteers and retired staff coming back to help. Primary care has remained open during very adverse circumstances and continues to be the most accessible of all services, now providing more activity than pre-pandemic.”
David Walker, Chair of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, commented: “Our teams rose to the multitude of challenges posed by the pandemic. In the midst of them, staff showed spirit and dedication in caring for patients in area teams, in our community hospitals and on mental health wards.
“The Trust is immensely proud also to have played a pivotal role in administering nearly 1 million COVID vaccines in our three mass vaccination centres across the region. At the Kassam Stadium in Oxford the team has delivered almost 420,000 primary and booster doses along with thousands more vaccines in schools and in pop-up clinics.
“Oxfordshire’s response to the pandemic has been remarkable. The crisis pulled us together, the NHS and local government, social care and the voluntary sector – and we will take and advance the lessons of that collaboration. Of course, much that we were able to do depended on the public, their support, their response in getting vaccinated and sticking to the rules that keep staff and patients – our loved ones – safe.”