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Behind The Screens, the stories behind London’s vaccination programme

Photo of volunteers and staff members in front of a vaccination bus

A new interactive web portal, documenting and celebrating the personal stories behind the work of vaccinating millions of Londoners against COVID-19, has been launched by the North Central London Integrated Care System and Middlesex University today.

Behind The Screens: Stories from the COVID Vaccination Programme in North Central London contains hundreds of minutes of first-person testimonies about the effort, expertise and community spirit that made this the most successful medical intervention in the history of the NHS.

The Behind The Screens website and Action Research Group was a project between MDX Nursing and Arts and Creative Industries academics and NHS leads. The lead MDX academics were Helen Alan and Sophia Drakopoulou and the interviews were filmed by BA Film graduates.

More than 11,000 staff and volunteers have so far given a total of 3.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to patients across the five North Central London (NCL) boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington.

It was recently estimated that vaccination against COVID-19 saved as many as 20 million lives globally during the first year of the vaccine programme.

Chris Caldwell, Chief Nurse for the NHS North Central London Integrated Care Board, and Executive lead for the NCL Vaccination Programme said: “The COVID-19 vaccination programme is the biggest single medical intervention in the history of the NHS, and it has changed lives: both of those who have been protected by the vaccine, but also by those who have been involved in the programme.

“More than 11,000 staff and volunteers were in some way involved in getting the people of these five boroughs vaccinated. As well as personally benefiting those who were vaccinated, people have learned new skills and grown through this programme: 215 staff who came to us through the vaccine programme have subsequently been permanently placed within NHS workforce as a result.

Behind the Screens is all about celebrating some of the individual stories that have contributed towards making up our vaccine programme such a huge success.”

Professor Carmel Clancy, Academic Dean of the Faculty of Health Social Care & Education at Middlesex University, said: “This website provides the story behind the scenes and is a wonderful resource. Out of those dark days of the pandemic, several thousand local residents joined the NHS on a temporary basis to work with nurses, nursing associates, students and volunteers to deliver an amazing service. They vaccinated millions of people seven days a week for months. It’s a real example of partnership between science, health and community.

“What is so heartening is hearing stories from across the NHS ‘family’ who don’t usually feature in stories about health work. The vaccination programme also has a remarkable legacy in that so many volunteers saw a future working in the NHS and are now training or working as nurses and other health care professionals. We should all be very proud that something so positive came out of those extremely difficult times.”

The research team from Middlesex University recorded over 300 hours of audio footage and 18 hours of video footage with staff and volunteers from the NCL vaccine programme. They then edited it all down into a series of highlights packages, which have been platformed on a new web portal. There, visitors will find an archive of personal stories that explain in date order key milestones in the vaccine roll-out.