' I think it’s not fit for purpose' claim as staff say 2000 residents in Lothians are missing from central vaccine database

The Scottish government is facing fresh questions over Covid-19 vaccine roll-out in the Lothians, as health board staff claim 2000 patients details are missing from the national database.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 7:00 am

Sources at NHS Lothian warned that up to 2000 people age 60 – 65 are still waiting to get their first vaccine due to a problem with the central database, which generates appointment letters.

It comes after some centres in Edinburgh saw “literally no patients" last week due to continued appointment letter delays, raising concerns about the management of the booking system.

In a letter to MSPs and MPs on Thursday, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman attributed the slower vaccine rollout to the Lothians’ younger population, while figures at the health board have claimed the lag behind other areas is partly due to the level of supply it receives from the Scottish government.

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Up to 2000 people in the Lothian area are waiting for vaccine letters
Up to 2000 people in the Lothian area are waiting for vaccine letters

But a well-placed source at NHS Lothian – whose claims were backed by others – said the national database is also causing “frustrating” delays.

The insider added: “There are up to 2000 people we know of in Lothians whose details are not on the national database so they won’t have received appointments. It’s been frustrating for staff. Problems with people’s details not being on the database haven’t been resolved.

"Patient data is provided in lists to health boards then approved and added onto the national system. Somewhere in that people are slipping through the net. There needs to be a significant change before the next big roll out. The entire list should be reviewed.”

It’s understood that the problem stems from the amalgamation of two primary lists, data from GP surgeries and national health records in Scotland. Sources said the data is not tallying up and that “a big failing” is that it’s not based on demographics like age, resulting in a lower take-up of people aged 60-65 years.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman blamed 'younger population' for vaccine lag

And it’s feared the issue could be affecting other areas with larger health boards.

Edinburgh woman Mary Millan and her husband tried for 4 weeks to be get a vaccine appointment. The 65-year-old said: “I have asthma so when we didn’t receive our letters we called and we were pushed from pillar to post, between health board and national services. We filled in the form on the NHS inform website on on February 22. We were told we were not on the database several times. It’s been so frustrating. We were finally offered an appointment on Friday but they said we were still not on the system. I think it’s not fit for purpose, if priority groups are being missed.”

Daniel Johnson MSP for Edinburgh south called for those who had missed out to ger their vaccine ‘quickly’.

He said: "People's confidence is already shaken by delayed appointment letters. While that's ongoing and we have issues with supply, we now need urgent clarity on what the problem is with people being missed off the vaccine database. A solution must be found. We need to quickly get these people vaccinated."

A spokesperson for NHS National Service Scotland (NSS) said: “Vaccine delivery programme partners are working together to ensure NHS Scotland’s appointment scheduling system continues to be robust and effective, and to minimise the risk of appointments being missed.

“The largest vaccination programme in Scotland’s history is complex and being delivered successfully at pace. We regret that a small number of people may have experienced delays for a number of reasons.

“Patient data is provided by territorial health boards to NSS to enable appointment scheduling on a national basis. Appointments can only be scheduled on the basis of that supplied data.

“The programme has enabled more than two million people to be vaccinated across Scotland in little over three months.”

The Scottish government was contacted for comment.

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