HEART (Hastings Emergency Action Response Team) has been commissioned by the Sussex Covid-19 Vaccination Programme to contact unvaccinated people in the town to find out why they haven’t received a jab. Facilitation arrangements, including travel support, can then be offered for those who want it. Volunteers are asked to spend “a few hours a week calling people up from home…You’ll get full training and really play a key role in making Hastings a safer place for everyone”.

There has, however, been some strong reaction on social media complaining that this volunteer programme is in breach of patient confidentiality.

Sussex NHS Commissioners acknowledge that vaccination status “would be confidential information for that individual” and claim that it “is treated as such” within the HEART team, with measures taken to ensure they “comply with processes to manage patient information”. 

HEART itself issued a statement: “Why people don’t want the Covid vaccine and their reasons and opinions are very interesting. This research is about people and their choices, it’s not about pushing for anything. People have valid concerns and are entitled to make their decisions. HEART aim to be helpful, that’s our mission.

“If someone doesn’t want a vaccination and doesn’t want to be contacted any further about it, we record that and pass it on. If someone needs a lift to an appointment, we’ll get them one. If someone wants more information, or a call from their GP, we’ll help organise it – that’s what we’re about.”

Some unvaccinated residents are unappeased. “It’s outrageous”, said one. “My NHS data is being shared without my consent with local volunteers who may be friends and neighbours.” 

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