'Our team is truly fantastic' - the GP helping get Suffolk vaccinated

Senior partner Dr Havard said Saxmundham Health is aiming to vaccinate the next age group ahead of schedule

Senior partner Dr Havard said Saxmundham Health is aiming to vaccinate the next age group ahead of schedule - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Saxmundham has been hitting the headlines for all the right reasons in recent months, much of it due to the tireless work of one Suffolk GP and his team.   

Dr John Havard is proud to have spent the last 35 years working in the coastal market town.  

He’s seen a lot change in his time in the town: “It has changed a lot from being a small town with a stable population with the A12 dividing it in two.  

“Already we have had a lot of new building as well the old American Airforce estate going to a housing association.” 

For the past six months his practice, Saxmundham Health, has been busy ensuring the town is vaccinated against the coronavirus.

As a result of this work the town is regularly listed as one of the areas with the highest levels of vaccinations in the country.  

“Our team is truly fantastic and these are the real community heroes,” said Dr Havard.  

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“We pulled together to plan and execute the vaccination campaign so successfully that we were top of 6,791 wards in England. 

“I am so pleased we took on the onerous contract because our team success was one of the proudest moments of my working life.  

“It taught me how much we could depend on our staff, Patient Participation Group and our volunteer group IP17 who made the delivery of 12,500 vaccinations (and rising) so smooth and efficient. 

 “I will always remember the first Saturday in January when our over 80s rocked up in the snow - many of them had not been out of the house for a year.  

“Staggeringly not one patient missed their appointment.” 

Another special moment for Dr Havard came through the surgery’s collection for COVAX, which helps vaccinate those was from poorer countries.  

So far the surgery has raised over £13,000 with some of the funds coming from local girl Beatrice Scott, whose own donation was a particularly fond memory for Dr Havard.  

"She heard we were collecting for COVAX to help vaccinate those less fortunate than ourselves and she put her pocket money in the box,” said Dr Havard.  

“When her Mum reminded her that this would mean no chocolate or comics, she retorted saying, ‘This is serious Mum - people are dying’. 

“It is the glimpses of the very best in human nature that make me feel very privileged to be working here.” 

Dr Havard said that despite the surgery’s successes, the virus had proved to be a difficult time for the community.  

“Covid has been a desperate time for many but it has also brought out the best in people with a resurgence of a ‘wartime’ community spirit,” said Dr Havard.  

“We need to nurture this to build something substantial and sustainable of which all local residents can be proud. 

“Now is the time to sow the seeds of a strong and caring community.” 

With thoughts of a stronger community in mind, Dr Havard and the surgery are looking to lead work to try and help support those who may be lonely in the Saxmundham area.   

“Loneliness and unhappiness need to be thought of as diseases that need treatment. Kindness is a cure that has no side-effects - in fact it is good for both giver and receiver,” said Dr Havard.  

“We know that lonely people die prematurely - it is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and there is so much we can do to support each other.  

“It is not just older people either - we are social animals and we all need companionship and compassion.  

“Our Patient Participation Group is setting up a ‘Caring Saxmundham’ organisation and we plan to offer a host of activities for all the community.  

“Lots of ideas are currently being discussed and we want local people, town council and voluntary organisations all to contribute because it is ‘our community’ and the activities should grow organically according to local needs and desires.” 

So far the group is looking at having an ‘Old Film’ club, health walks, chess club and could expand with sewing, knitting and lunch clubs.