Who would have imagined that Forum Legend JacksonR (Robyn Clark), a bedrock of HR knowledge and advice, would be making global headline news?! Last Friday, an email landed in Robyn’s inbox that led to an expose trending across Twitter, attracting an influx of media interest.
It is no surprise to anyone that vaccinations for COVID are in demand, however perhaps more surprising was the communication marked “Unused vaccine dose “reward” £5000 paid to caller” received by Robyn on 8th January 2021 from the Hacking Trust, a London based private investment firm. The email went on to make a bizarre request:
‘We require approx 20 vaccinations and we understand you are operating a Covid-19 vaccination centre. We have been informed that many appointments are not kept and some do not attend at all. On this basis we would like to be informed as soon as possible of any ‘no shows’ or cancellations on any given day which would result in unnecessary wastage of the vaccination.’
Robyn’s initial response was that this was a spam email and it could not possibly be real. The body of the email explained that they would “donate” £5000 to the individual for each successful immunisation of a staff member, paid as a charitable donation or directly. Knowing the implications of reading such a shocking communication, Robyn cautiously took to Twitter to share the information, however, she later removed her tweet concerned about the repercussions. Was this for real? Surely no one would have the audacity to request vaccines illegally in this manner? But, as she was about to discover, it was authentic, and this really was a legitimate request.
Within a couple of hours of her tweeting, the media picked up on the story and she was in contact with reporters from various medical outlets, all wanting an exclusive on the story and to be the first to break the scandal to the general public.
The next few hours were a blur for The IGPM and Robyn. The full story created a media storm, published first in the Telegraph, followed by the Guardian and the Metro, as well as making waves across the pond, when it was mentioned by US publication Newsweek . By Saturday morning, following a response from the Hacking Trust, the story led front page of the BBC website.
Robyn told the media, in her role as a director of The Institute of General Practice Management:
‘The IGPM are appalled that this company would offer money to practices to essentially jump the queue. ‘Practices are doing their utmost to ensure vaccine is given to the priority groups as laid out by the JCVI, as these are the most vulnerable in our society. ‘These patients have been waiting for vaccine and many of them are willing to attend sites at short notice to get the chance to have it. ‘We are astounded that anyone would think offering money is appropriate in these circumstances. The NHS is free at the point of access for patients and always will be.’
The Hacking Trust said that their words were “misinterpreted”. A spokesman said “The Hacking Health Trust has offered in open correspondence to some GPs charitable donations to staff or surgeries in this difficult time for any vaccines which were unused. We had heard that some vaccines were being unused due to missed appointments.”– a statement that Robyn dismisses as nonsense.
This whirlwind response has shown us just what #PMpower can really do! From an office in Bristol to front page news on the BBC, and to the States, when we work together we can really make a difference for general practice.