Norfolk nurse wins award for pioneering vaccine work

Royal College of Nursing's Nursing Awards 2021 - Learning Disability Nursing Award winner - Rebecca Crossley

Learning disability nurse, Rebecca Crossley, works at James Paget University Hospital. - Credit: Tim George, James Paget University Hospital

A Norfolk nurse scooped the country's top nursing award for her work ensuring people with learning disabilities are able to get the Covid vaccine.

Rebecca Crossley, a learning disability nurse at James Paget University Hospital NHS Trust, triumphed in the Learning Disability Nursing category of the Royal College of Nursing's awards 2021.

The profession’s top accolade for nursing excellence attracted more than 550 entries this year.

While getting her own vaccination, Ms Crossley, recognised that people with learning disabilities and autism may experience difficulties getting the jab.

She said: "Starting an accessible Covid-19 vaccine clinic for people with learning disabilities and autism — along with those with severe and enduring mental health conditions — was an essential thing to do.


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"I organised engagement events with people who would be using the service to ensure we got it right from the beginning, resulting in the pathway being truly co-produced with the families who would be using it."

Royal College of Nursing's Nursing Awards 2021 - Learning Disability Nursing Award winner - Rebecca Crossley

Learning disability nurse Rebecca Crossley recognised the difficult those with learning disabilities and autism may face when getting the Covid vaccine as she got her own. Photos: Tim George, James Paget Hospital University Hospital - Credit: Tim George

Ms Crossley said she was delighted to have won the RCN Nursing Award.

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"It’s such a great opportunity to keep people with a learning disability and or autism in the spotlight," she said.

"Without the trust’s open-minded approach the clinic would not have happened.

"Not all people have access to a clinic like this – we have had enquiries from as far away as Wales, London and Cornwall."

The service has vaccinated hundreds of people, some with severe needle phobias who previously had never had a vaccination, with a 99.9% success rate.

Paul Morris, James Paget University Hospital director of nursing and patient safety, said: "Rebecca was the driving force behind our accessible vaccination clinic, making the case for what we should provide, and how we should provide it, and working with colleagues to make it happen.

"We are delighted her efforts have been recognised through this award."

People with learning disabilities and autism are six times more likely to die from Covid when compared with the general population.

This is not only because of comorbidities but also due to sensory needs or anxiety associated with hospitals and masks, for example.

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