MSP demands action over ‘chaos’ in booking system causing booster vaccine delays for over 70s

A Lothians MSP has warned ‘chaos’ in the appointment booking system is causing delays to crucial booster vaccines for people over 70.

Monday, 1st November 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 1st November 2021, 7:59 am
People are struggling to get and rearrange booster appointments

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Several Lothians MSPs and an MP said they have been contacted by people struggling to secure overdue appointments, sparking fears that older people will miss out on crucial protection offered by the booster vaccine during the winter months.

Concerns have been backed by a senior well-placed source at NHS Lothian who said problems getting and changing appointments were ‘widely reported’.

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It comes after people with appointments at the Royal Highland Centre, including many elderly people due their booster, were turned away after being told they were unable to

receive their jab.

The Evening News spoke to several people over 70 who are scared they could miss out on overdue booster jags, after being advised of a ‘glitch’ in the system.

Anne Harley, 71, was told that her account was closed following her flu vaccine at the end of September.

The grandmother-of-four is frustrated after a national helpline adviser told her that she could be waiting until December to get an appointment because there are

none available before then in the Lothians – or any nearby health board areas.

Mrs Harley, from Edinburgh, said: “It’s so frustrating and a real concern that people are being prevented from booking their booster appointment.

"I look after my grandchildren so could pick up covid from them. My booster is now overdue since mid October, so I called the helpline to ask about it and was told my account was closed. They said it was a glitch in the system. I have several friends who are in the same boat. I’m told I can’t do a drop-in for the booster.

"The adviser said to call back then suggested it could be end of December before the appointment letter comes out. And I’m not even on the system any

more. I can’t get a clear answer. December will be really late, my second vaccine was in April.”

A concerned daughter who had to rearrange appointment for her vulnerable 89-year-old mum said: "My mum is deaf and registered blind and not able to travel on public transport. I had to rearrange her appointment so I could take her. But there was nothing available for months.

“Then they actually said she won’t get another letter now, she’s off the system. But gave us no solution other than we’d have to just keep calling and trying again. It’s ridiculous, a

total farce. It's like talking to a brick wall.”

Sue Webber MSP, said she received numerous reports from worried families of pensioners being passed from ‘pillar to post’ over the issue between health board and the national helpline.

Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said: “The system in place for people getting a booster jab is chaos. I am regularly contacted by concerned constituents who are struggling to get a flu or booster vaccination.

“There are always challenges with vaccination programmes, but SNP Ministers have made an absolute mess of the flu and booster vaccination programme.

“People’s will not have the recommended level of protection because of this fiasco overseen by SNP Ministers.”

NHS Lothian declined to give an official comment, saying any booking issues would need to be addressed by the Scottish Government.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The National Vaccination Scheduling System and national phone line are continuing to work well, however there can be instances when the national phone line is experiencing higher call volumes than usual.

“Letters have been going out to higher risk groups this week and the system also allows health and social care workers to book online, as well as staff in education and prison occupations.

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