Slower vaccine rollout in NHS Lothian 'due to supply from Scottish Government'

The Scottish Government has faced further questions over the slower Covid-19 vaccine rollout in NHS Lothian, after Health Secretary Jeane Freeman attributed the issue to the health board’s younger population in a letter sent to all Lothian MSPs and MPs.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 7:00 am
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman during a ministerial statement in the Scottish Parliament.

But figures within NHS Lothian said the health board has lagged behind others in its vaccination rate in part due to the level of supply it receives from the Scottish Government, which is allocated based on a resource-sharing formula known as ‘NRAC’.

“There's a key question here as to why the vaccines are being supplied on anything other than by JCVI category and how many people each health board area have per group,” said Labour MSP Daniel Johnson.

"Any additional rationing, based on on NRAC really does require explanation. NRAC is a formula that already disadvantages people in the Lothians, we have the lowest per capita revenue in capital funding of any health board area, and if that formula is being used to constrain the number of doses available to people in Edinburgh, I would really question why that is.”

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Health Secretary Jeane Freeman wrote to Lothian MSPs and MPs on Thursday to address recent concerns with the vaccination rollout.

She attributed the comparatively slower rollout to the Lothians’ younger population.

Just 35 per cent of people in the Lothians are aged over 50, compared to 37 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and 49 per cent in the Western Isles.

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"A key focus of the vaccination programme at present is vaccination of those aged 50 years and over, so the younger age profile in Lothian explains why the headline coverage of the overall adult population (16+) is lower than other areas.

"A more accurate reflection of the process is to consider delivery based on mid-year estimates for those aged 50 and over. On this basis, internal analysis shows that vaccinations in NHS Lothian are progressing very well, in line with JCVI priority groups and according to their available supply.”

Labour MP Ian Murray said the letter left some questions unanswered.

“The slow roll-out in Edinburgh is continuing to cause major concerns,” he said.

“There are people still waiting for letters and there is growing anxiety due to looming shortages. Demographics are clearly one factor, but Jeane Freeman’s letter doesn’t answer the question why Edinburgh is so far behind other urban centres and why the city is not getting its fair share?"

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton called on the health secretary to ensure NHS Lothian has the support and resources it needs to “close the gap” with other health boards.

"Health staff are working incredibly hard to get jabs in arms but a number of constituents have been in touch with me to express concern at the fact that they have not had invites when they feel they should have done and question why Lothian is still at the bottom of the table,” he said.

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