Hundreds of vulnerable north-east people were turned away after travelling for flu jabs this week – as outrage continues over the handling of vaccinations across Grampian this year.
Would-be patients were told on Thursday their appointments had been cancelled without notice due to what the NHS yesterday described as “logistical problems”.
It emerged the Aberdeenshire site they attended had been unable to secure the stocks needed for that day’s vaccinations.
The latest revelation sparked fears over stocks, on top of frustrations over letters arriving too late for people to make appointments and a seemingly forever-engaged flu phone line.
In a statement yesterday from NHS Grampian deputy chief executive Adam Coldwells, the health board “apologised again” for problems with letters and calls.
This week it emerged more than 300 people in Aberdeenshire, including elderly and “at risk” patients, were sent home without receiving treatment after travelling to Meldrum Academy.
Stunned residents were told no vaccines had arrived at the venue – an experience branded “unacceptable” by North East Conservative MSP Liam Kerr.
Mr Kerr said: “I know the people on the front line are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances, but there is clearly an issue with the supply in the background.”
NHS Grampian’s spokesman said patient vaccinations were “postponed due to logistical problems with the transportation of the vaccine”.
He added: “We wish to assure all patients affected they will be recalled and will receive their flu vaccination.”
It is understood Meldrum Academy was the only venue affected by the problem.
Last night the health board was forced to apologise again for the problems, admitting “teething problems” in a system “overwhelmed” by the numbers calling and emailing to rearrange appointments.
Health chiefs report more than 26,000 people across Grampian have received their jab, but in Aberdeen alone more than 200,000 people are eligible for one this year.
Mr Coldwells, said: “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 said additional resources had been brought in to clear the backlog of calls and emails about missed appointments.
Health boards have taken responsibility for delivering flu vaccinations this year for the first time.
In Grampian that change has been paired with steering patients away from the traditional GP surgery setting for the inoculation to free up doctors for other work.
Community venues are instead being used, with NHS Grampian looking to use schools through the October break, with other vaccinations to come as late as mid-December.
Mr Kerr said his office had been “swamped” with queries about jammed phone lines, late appointment letters, and worries over vaccine stocks in recent days.
He added: “There is considerable concern about respiratory illness and Covid-19 which must be addressed.
“It’s not just the public who are worried about winter flu — Scottish Care said vaccine rollout has been poorly managed and patchy.
“The SNP government need to make sure that NHS Grampian and its sister boards have the resources they need.”
Further north, NHS Highland continues to deliver the vaccine through GP surgeries.
Last night, public health medicine consultant Dr Ken Oates: “We are happy to report that the delivery of the flu immunisation programme is going well across NHS Highland and large numbers of people have already had their flu jabs.
“We are following the Scottish Government guidance in relation to prioritising the eligible groups and we would encourage eligible individuals to get vaccinated as this is the best way to help protect yourself against flu.”
The Press And Journal has previously reported the “shambles” of scores of north-east patients missing out on flu jabs as letters advising them of appointment times arrive too late to get there in time or, in some cases, days after the event.
At yesterday’s coronavirus briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would be taking up the trouble with north-east health chiefs.
“We will be discussing with NHS Grampian any implications of late delivery of letters and asking NHS Grampian about the plans they are putting in place to mitigate against that,” she said.
Royal Mail said it was “working closely with NHS Grampian” to ensure the risk of further issues with appointment letters is minimised.