An unprecedented response from the public has left one Scottish health board unable to cope with the demand for flu vaccinations.
Nealy 90 community venues across Fife are to start delivering vaccination clinics in the coming weeks, but a recent surge in demand has led to the region’s health board issuing an apology over difficulties many have had when trying to book.
Eligibility for free flu vaccination was extended in August to try to avoid a rise in covid-19 cases converging with a bad winter flu season.
NHS Fife Chief Executive Carol Potter said that while the unprecedented response was encouraging, many people had experienced difficulties in getting through to the dedicated vaccination phone line.
Ms Potter said: “We are very sorry that our systems and processes have not been adequate and effective enough to deal with the demand and would want to reassure the public of Fife that we are taking steps to rectify this.
“We accept that on this occasion our planning was not sufficient, and we should have been better prepared to deal with the level of calls experienced.”
“We appreciate this has caused understandable anxiety for some members of the public and we would like to offer our sincere apologies to those affected. We also want to thank local people for the understanding shown thus far and ask for their continued patience in the coming days.
“A significant number of vaccination clinics are planned to take place in almost 90 community venues across Fife in the coming weeks.
The health board lead added: “Please be assured there is no shortage of appointments available, and all of those who are eligible to receive their flu jab will have the opportunity to do so ahead of flu season.
“We would encourage members of the public to hold off calling if they cannot get through immediately in the next few days and to try again next week when we will have increased our call handling capacity.”
The issue was raised at First Minister’s Questions today, with MSP Alex Rowley saying those people who had got through to the bookings line were at risk of giving up as they were being directed to attend centres a long distance from their homes.
In response, Nicola Sturgeon said that, though the programme is bigger than ever before, the aim is that everyone who is eligible for a flu vaccination should get one:
“The issues with the phone line in Fife have been addressed,” she said.
“Where there are other issues around access, the Cabinet Secretary for Health will work with health boards to ensure that people who are eligible have the access that they need, to ensure that they can take the opportunity. I will ask the health secretary to correspond directly with Alex Rowley about the concerns that he has raised and, specifically, how they are being addressed.”