Highland patients are demanding answers after being told they can’t get vaccinations from their GP any more – with no word on where to go instead.
It’s led to some fearing they could have to drive upwards of 70 miles for treatment, in lieu of answers from their health board.
NHS Highland has assured “local venues” will still exist but, when pressed for more info, was unable to provide any specifics.
The changes come amid a Scotland-wide “vaccine transformation programme” agreed between the Scottish Government and GPs in 2017.
It said there was a need to modernise the service, shifting the responsibility from individual GP surgeries to dedicated area-wide teams.
In doing so, this would free up family doctors’ time to help them become “expert medical generalists,” with vaccine decisions instead being taken on a larger scale.
What do we know about the changes?
This new model came into force in the Highlands on March 1.
It covers the likes of flu and Covid vaccinations, childhood immunisations, tetanus boosters and travel jabs.
In a statement, NHS Highland told us people needing routine appointments will still be sent a letter with details.
It noted: “This may be at a new local venue dependant on where you live.
“There will be a variety of locations which will be targeted at being close to, if not in, GP practices.”
But when we asked the health board for more clarity on these locations, a spokesman said: “All we can say is as per the statement.”
‘Flummoxed’: Highland patients baffled over lack of info
Jen Powell, who lives in Bonar Bridge, is worried about what it means for her elderly parents.
She fears she might need to take them somewhere central like Raigmore Hospital, around an hour’s drive away.
“We’re being told it might be moved, but we don’t know where to, so we don’t know the implications,” she said.
“I’m a bit flummoxed as nobody seems to know – even the GPs, which is confusing me even more.
“If it’s being moved, we need to know.”
‘What the devil am I supposed to do?’
Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone has raised the issue in the House of Commons, desperate for clarity.
He asked the UK Parliament at the end of last month: “What the devil am I supposed to do in this situation to help my constituents who are rightly very worried about this?”
Mr Stone has also written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about the situation.
“A crofter who cuts their hand on a piece of barbed wire needs a tetanus vaccination as quickly as possible,” he said.
“But it looks like these changes will force patients to travel 70 miles or more to the nearest A&E, where they will face further waits due to A&E backlogs.
“Many patients also live in areas with no or little public transport links to aid this travel.
“All of the issues above are highly concerning for residents of a vast and remote constituency.
“Having to travel long distances on neglected, pothole-ridden roads, often in the rain, snow, and ice, is dangerous for patients in need of urgent care.”