Vulnerable pensioners “could have died” after an admin mix-up left them waiting in pitch-black, freezing conditions for vaccines that would never arrive.
People were left stunned and confused when they turned up to a Covid vaccination centre in Inverurie ready to receive their jabs on Monday evening.
Rather than being able to take a step towards normality, they were faced with a locked gate and no information as to why their 6pm appointments appeared to have been cancelled.
Some remained there for close to an hour, attempting to glean information from the vaccine call centre mentioned on their letters, but hitting further roadblocks.
One handler suggested they had fallen victim to a scam letter – but this only prompted more confusion as to why no-one had appeared to take their money.
They were left with no alternative but to head back, dejected, and contact their GPs when office hours resumed the following morning.
Aberdeenshire Health And Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) has now issued an apology for the incident, blaming an “error” where out-of-hours appointments were incorrectly doled out on the first day of a new system going live.
One of the patients left waiting in the cold was a 79-year-old woman with underlying health conditions including leukaemia, COPD and diabetes.
Her son, who gave her a lift to the Inverurie centre, said: “All these vulnerable people were standing in the pitch black. It had been snowing and was about -3C.
“It was a shame for everybody who was there, with a lot of people at a fair age.
“My mum was disappointed she wasn’t going to get her jab.”
And his wife, the woman’s daughter-in-law, said: “It was a fiasco. The whole thing has been shambolic.
“There were all these vulnerable people full of hope they were taking a step back to some normality and getting to see their families again.
“That generation are very independent and not everybody has access to a car. If we hadn’t given her a lift, she would have taken a bus.
“And I think if that happened, and she walked from the stop in the cold and the dark, she could have collapsed and died. This error put everybody at risk.”
An AHSCP spokeswoman said: “An error in our booking system meant that a small number of people were sent appointments for our Inverurie clinic out with the clinic opening hours.
“We can only apologise for this and we are working to ensure that this does not happen again.
“Our vaccine co-ordinator for central Aberdeenshire will be contacting all those who have been affected to apologise and re-schedule their vaccination appointment.”
North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “Vaccinating every adult in the country is an enormous undertaking and the health care staff and volunteers making it happen deserve our praise and thanks.
“Glitches in the system are distressing where vulnerable people are affected, and hopefully lessons will be learned from this case and appointments will run smoothly from now on.”