Edinburgh Labour MSP Daniel Johnson calls on Scottish Government to intervene in booster jags 'chaos'
Labour MSP Daniel Johnson has been flooded with complaints about the Capital's "chaotic" booster jab arrangements – but the issue came close to home when both his mother and mother-in-law were turned away from the same vaccination centre at the same time.
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Alison Johnson and Karen Cook were coincidentally both given vaccination appointments for early Thursday morning at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Morningside.
But when they turned up they were told they shouldn’t be there because it was for NHS staff only.
Mrs Johnson said the two grandmothers, aged in their seventies, had been left angry, upset, bewildered and bemused.
She originally had an invitation to get both her flu jag and her Covid booster at Ingliston, but when she went along she could not have the booster because it was not six months since her second vaccination.
When the six months was up and she phoned the helpline for an appointment she was told she was no longer on the system because she had not turned up. But she was then given the appointment for 7.07am at the Royal Edinburgh.
She said: "I went along very promptly and to my great surprise, five minutes later, Karen, my daughter-in-law's mother, turned up. And there was another lady who had came in from Penicuik.
“They took our names and then said ‘which branch of the NHS do you work for?’ We said we didn’t work for the NHS and they said ‘well you shouldn't be here, this is for staff only’.
“We said can't we just have the booster now we're here. They looked at us suspiciously and asked ‘Are you over 65?’ and then said they couldn't give us the booster because we were over 65.”
Mrs Cook said she had repeatedly called the helpline after her six months had elapsed to try to get an appointment, but then received a text telling her to go to the Royal Edinburgh on Thursday at 7am.
“I was shocked it was less than 24 hours notice, but I wasn’t complaining because I live within walking distance of the hospital.
"I turned up and then was turned away because it was a mistake. It was for staff only. It's crazy. The system is very chaotic.”
Mrs Johnson has now been given a cancellation at Ingliston next week and Mrs Cook has an appointment for Pennywell All Care Centre but is still hoping to get somewhere closer.
Mrs Johnson said: “The system is very imperfect. It's like when you go to a communist country and you come up against red tape and ‘the rules’ and there's nothing you can do.
"I sorted it out, but a lot of fellow citizens are older than me or don’t feel able to pick up the phone and sort it out. And this is too important for us to get it wrong.”
She said she was looking forward to getting her booster. “We've been really careful, leading a very low-key life and avoiding public places and public transport. For me to be fully vaccinated and have the booster means I can look forward to having a slightly more normal life.”
Daniel Johnson, who is MSP for Edinburgh Southern, said: "I have been inundated by constituents contacting me, unable to get booster appointments, rearrange appointments they are unable to attend or told to go to centres that would require long journeys to get to. This has been a problem for both Covid booster and flu shots.
"The experience of my mum and mother-in-law are just two of the hundreds of constituents who have been in touch. It shows how widespread this is and the chaotic system older people are facing to get these vital vaccinations.
"The government needs to step in, identify the problems and put it right. People are confused and worried by a system that is getting things wrong and sending them to appointments they can’t get to or are not allowed to use.”
Martin Morrison, operations director at NHS National Services Scotland for Test and Protect, said the flu and Covid booster programme was delivering the most complex vaccination programme in the history of the NHS.
“The national scheduling system has successfully supported a large increase in vaccine capacity, allowing our NHS to continue to protect as many people as possible.
“We understand that some people may experience difficulty in securing a vaccine appointment which suits them, and we are constantly adding new services and clinics to drive vaccine uptake as quickly as possible. Appointment booking processes are continually being improved.
“We apologise if patients are invited to the wrong clinics and will investigate with our partners in NHS Lothian to determine what has happened and how we can avoid this happening in the future.”