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NHS Grampian reschedules appointments for elderly Moray patients being sent outwith region for flu jab and Covid-19 booster

By Lorna Thompson

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A NUMBER of elderly local residents have raised concerns that they are being sent outwith Moray for their flu jab and Covid booster appointments.

It has also emerged that some Speyside residents are being allocated appointments more than an hour's drive away, over the remote A939 Lecht Road, to a mobile unit in Ballater, Deeside.

This year, flu vaccinations are being provided at vaccination centres, rather than GP practices, so they can be given at the same time as Covid-19 booster jabs.

Appointments are being automatically assigned by a national booking system.

NHS Grampian has issued an assurance that it is working to reschedule appointments for a number of elderly people in Moray after a computer error.

The health board said: "We are still investigating. It would appear that following some initial problems with appointing older age groups for their flu / Covid-19 booster – the system generated two appointments rather than one – that when appointments were rerun the 70-79 cohort was appointed to available slots before the over-80s.

"This meant that the local additional clinics that the team in Grampian had put in place for the over-80s have been opened for the next cohort to be appointed to. This then has a knock-on effect across the clinics as people are appointed to their nearest available clinic appointment."

NHS Grampian has now increased capacity at clinics.

A spokesperson added: "We would like to apologise profusely to the small number of people in the Moray community who were inconvenienced by this.

"We are quickly looking into how this happened and will work to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"We are continuing to stride on through this massive vaccination programme and once again thank the population of Moray for their help by regularly testing, vaccinating and sticking to the guidelines to keep their community safe."

Moray MP Douglas Ross said: "I'm pleased that the NHS has recognised there has been an issue, and they are contacting all those affected to try and reschedule. However, there will undoubtedly be some people whose appointments will be difficult to change.

"While the health board has explained that mistakes occurred due to a computer error, it's extremely disappointing that this has happened and I am seeking assurances this doesn't happen again.

"I have been contacted by a number of local residents who were affected by this and it caused a lot of worry for those involved.

"It's good to see that NHS Grampian has increased capacity at Moray clinics to try and ensure the over-80s get a local appointment as it's vital we do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for this age group to get their flu jag and Covid booster."

The Lecht Road, looking north from Hill of Allargue, near Cock Bridge. Picture: Johnny Durnan.
The Lecht Road, looking north from Hill of Allargue, near Cock Bridge. Picture: Johnny Durnan.

One Glenlivet resident, Val Ireland (79), said she was taken aback when she and her husband, also 79, opened letters last Friday, October 8, confirming flu jabs and Covid booster appointments at a mobile unit in Ballater.

She said: "I opened it and presumed it would be in Elgin or Huntly. But Ballater? The appointment was for late October at 8.50am. The Glenlivet to Ballater A939 road over the Lecht is a road that gets closed in the winter, very early sometimes.

"It's just crazy to be asking two 79-year-olds to be travelling at that time of the morning, with a journey time of at least an hour along single-track roads, with the strong possibility of icy or even snowy conditions.

"Ballater, with a bus route, was given a mobile unit but Tomintoul and Glenlivet, with no buses, wasn't."

Mrs Ireland added: "I'm 79 but I can still pick up the phone and vocalise what I need. What about people who live by themselves, whose memories may not be too good, or who don't have confidence on the phone?

"I am afraid that if many residents like this receive the same venue then they won't take up the appointment."

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: "I’m aware that there have been some issues across Moray where those over-80 have been allocated appointments further from home than would normally be the case and NHS Grampian is working to resolve this problem."

He added: "I’ve been contacted by a few constituents from Glenlivet and Tomintoul who are understandably concerned at the prospect of having to travel to Ballater for their flu jabs.

"With regards to the specific issue of those in Speyside having to travel to Ballater, I’ve raised this as a matter of urgency with NHS Grampian’s chief executive and asked that the health board consider all options to allow residents in Glenlivet and Tomintoul to get their jabs as close to home as possible."

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