A Thanet call centre will be answering a very different type of phone call when it opens as Kent and Medway’s fourth vaccination centre this month.
The former Saga call centre, in Haine Road, Ramsgate was closed by the firm in January when 600 employees started working permanently from home.
But from Monday, 22 February it will be transformed into a life-saving vaccination centre serving vulnerable people in Thanet and those within a 45-minute drive.
Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT), which is co-ordinating and leading the large vaccination centres in Kent and Medway, has already opened three centres in Folkestone, Gravesend and Tonbridge.
KCHFT Chief Executive Paul Bentley said: “We’re really excited to be able to announce the location of our fourth vaccination centre for Kent and Medway in the heart of one our most deprived communities.
“We’ll be working closely with local GPs who have been doing a brilliant job already to protect the most vulnerable people in Thanet, as all of us in the NHS continue to ramp up our efforts to beat COVID-19.
“When I consider we were only asked to fulfil this role at the very end of last year and in the space of less than two months have taken something that was an idea and we’ve recruited, trained and inducted more than 2,000 members of staff and opened four centres – it really is incredible.
“But what strikes me is that many members of staff have day jobs, so it’s not just that they are vaccinating people, they are also working a shift in a community hospital, or working as a health visitor or as reception staff.
"I’m extremely proud and this is a tremendous testament to the values and the way in which our NHS team respond.
“We also couldn’t do this without the support of our partners.
"I’d like to thank Craig Mackinlay MP who identified the Saga site for us and has worked so supportively to make this a reality”
Like Folkestone, Gravesend and Tonbridge, the Thanet centre will be open to people aged 65 and over. Invitations to people in priority cohort five (over 65s) have been sent this week.
You can make an appointment by phoning 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk/covidvaccination.
Anyone who is in a higher priority cohort (over 70, clinically extremely vulnerable or health and social care staff), can also book at any site.
MP for South Thanet Craig Mackinlay said: “Vaccinations are key to saving lives and getting back to normality.
"That’s why I’m delighted to have located and, with the agreement and co-operation of the owner and the NHS, secured the Saga Centre at Eurokent Business Park in Ramsgate as a super vaccination centre.
“The Saga Centre is a superb site that has a huge administering capacity of thousands of jabs per day and is fantastic news for residents in Thanet and east Kent, and another milestone on the road to beating Covid.”
The large-scale vaccine centres will each be capable of delivering thousands of vaccinations each week, scaling their operations up and down according to vaccine supply.
People who book will have a pre-vaccination assessment before they receive their vaccine. Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people are urged not to turn up early to avoid queues. Anyone having the vaccine will need to wait for 15 minutes before driving.
If anyone has already been vaccinated since the letter was sent out or would prefer to wait to be invited to attend a hospital or GP service, they can simply ignore it.
People such as care home residents, who are unable to travel to vaccination centres, hospitals or GP-led sites, are already being vaccinated at home.
If people have already been given an appointment by their GP service, they should attend that. Patients in cohort six (people with underlying health conditions under 65) will be contacted by their GP.
For a full list of other sites already up and running, visit www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/covid19vaccine