NHS Grampian has apologised to scores of patients trying to get their flu jab.
More than 26,000 people have had their vaccination since September 28, but the health board admitted it had been “overwhelmed” by demand in the new system.
This is the first year health boards have organised the vaccine in community spaces such as schools and village halls, taking them out of GP practices.
There have been repeated complaints from patients that they have received their appointment letter too late – either after they were due to attend, or in the morning of their assigned date, leaving little time to arrange travel.
This has resulted in the contact centre becoming overwhelmed, with many calls going unanswered.
In some cases, patients have been attended their for their flu jab but been turned away due to a lack of supplies.
NHS Grampian’s deputy chief executive Adam Coldwells has today apologised and assured patients that efforts are “well under way” to work through a backlog of calls.
“To date the programme has successfully vaccinated over 26,000 people with a further near 1,500 being added to that each day,” he said.
“The vaccination programme is being delivered in phases with eligible at risk groups being invited in an order based on that.
“Appointment letters for further phases are yet to be dispatched, leading some people to think that they have been missed.
“Over 65s are first priority as we know that age factors make you more vulnerable to effects of flu followed by people aged 18 to 64 who have certain health factors that also make them more vulnerable should they get flu.
“Patients will receive a letter from NHS Grampian with a date, time and location. This is a new process and we want to make sure everyone knows what to expect.
“We recognise this may be an anxious time, we are asking people to be patient and wait until they receive a letter rather than turning up without an appointment to enable us to deliver the vaccine to all those who are eligible safely.”
He added that work was under way to respond to anyone who had left their details either via the helpline or by e-mail.
Mr Coldwells said: “We’re working extremely hard to clear the backlog and get back to everyone who has been in contact and apologise for the distress this may have caused.
“Initially we believed call volumes were driven primarily by letter delivery issues that we are closely working with Royal Mail to resolve that.
“However, having brought in additional resource to work through the backlog of messages, we have since found that a large volume of people are contacting us speculatively to find out when they will receive an appointment date.
“People who are used to booking their own appointments with GPs are contacting us with concerns around the new community-based model of delivery and we’d like to reassure them they will receive an appointment.
“We are therefore currently in the process of contacting everyone who been in touch and left their contact details, apologising for the delay in our response, prioritising and rescheduling any missed appointments and reassuring those who are eligible for the free flu jab but yet to receive a letter that they will have the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
While flu vaccine clinics are being held in schools during the October holidays, there will be further clinics into mid-December to ensure all priority groups are covered.
He added: “These clinics are being set up now and letters to patients who have not yet received one will be out in the next three weeks.
“We know this is an anxious time and it is fantastic that so many people are responding and looking to ensure they have their flu vaccination.”
Pregnant women living in Aberdeenshire and Moray will be offered their flu vaccination from their community midwife.
In Aberdeen, women will be invited to attend a vaccination appointment prior to their 12 and 20 weeks scans.
Community midwives will make arrangements through the immunisation team who will then make direct contact with those women.
Appointments are currently being issued for those aged between two to five years.