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Ross slams Moray flu jab roll out delays

By Alan Beresford

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THE roll out of this year's flu vaccine in Grampian has been slammed as a "shambles" by Moray's MP.

Douglas Ross MP. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Douglas Ross MP. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Douglas Ross has spoken out after receiving a large number of complaints from local constituents about the late delivery of appointment letters, some of which are arriving after the appointment date.

In addition to this, Mr Ross has received concerns about elderly, housebound and infirm residents receiving letters advising them to attend their local flu vaccine centre when they struggle to leave their home. Adding to their concerns is the fact that when the hotline number is called to arrange alternative dates or locations for the administering of the vaccine, the number telephoned is often constantly engaged.

Mr Ross said: “I have raised this issue with the chief executive of NHS Grampian and asked what plans there are to address the serious concerns that have been raised with me.

"After everything I have heard from local people, for many affected, the process can only be described as a shambles.

“People living in Moray are understandably seriously concerned.This year they are worried about the ongoing Covid pandemic and on top of that they are desperate to make sure they at least get their flu vaccine.

“Clearly the systems and procedures set up to deal with the flu vaccine distribution and roll out this year have failed and urgent action needs to be taken now to address all the issues.

“NHS Grampian need to be in a position to reassure the public that everyone will get their flu vaccine in time.

“I’m not sure why the Scottish Government decided to change what is normally a smooth operation this year. In doing so they’ve created alarm and uncertainty amongst some of the most vulnerable in our community”.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said that a surge in demand had placed an extra burden on staff.

"The telephone helpline and e-mail address set up to support the public vaccination campaign has experienced a surge in enquiries that staff are struggling to cope with at present.

"This is due, in part, to the late arrival of appointment letters which we are working closely with Royal Mail to resolve.

"We are developing a solution to address the call/e-mail backlog at pace and will be making arrangements to ensure all those who are eligible for the free flu jab and may have missed appointments will have the opportunity to receive them.

"Our priority group at present is the over 65s; we know they are concerned and keen to get their vaccine. We want to reassure them that we are working hard to ensure they will receive it."

Moray SNP MSP Richard Lochhead said he was aware of the issues affecting the roll out, although this was set against a wider picture of greater flu vaccination this year than ever before.

"This year, it’s more important than ever that those who are eligible, take up the offer of a flu vaccine in order to protect themselves and others over this winter period," he continued.

“In order to address the additional risk posed by Covid, the vaccine is being offered to more people than ever before, and that has meant that some people will be seen in a different place from previous years.

"In fact, I’m told that the expansion of eligibility for the flu vaccine this year will mean that around 360,000 people in Grampian will be offered a flu jab.

“I’m aware that locally, there have been some issues with the late arrival of appointment letters issued by NHS Grampian and they have assured me that arrangements are being made to ensure that anyone who has missed an appointment will be given the opportunity to make a new appointment.

“As local MSP, I’ve raised these issues with the NHS Grampian who are responsible for the roll out of the vaccine programme in Moray and I will continue to liaise with the health board to ensure that those who are eligible are able to get their vaccine in the coming weeks.”

Eligible groups include: Children aged 2-5; School children in P1-7; Pregnant women; Health care workers; Social care workers who provide direct care; Unpaid carers; 55-64-year-olds; Those over 65; Anyone with an underlying medical condition such as asthma, COPD or diabetes; Anyone who lives with someone who is in the shielding category.

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