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Frank Ferri was shocked when he got an appointment letter this week telling him to go to the Royal Highland Centre for his flu vaccine.
The 86-year-old said it was ‘out of the question’ that he would be able to attend the appointment at Ingliston, which would leave him facing a long journey on public transport from his home in Newhaven.
Meanwhile, people living in East Lothian had faced a 70-mile round trip to Ingliston for their jab until local rearrangements were made meaning they can now get them in East Lothian Community Hospital, Haddington, and Musselburgh Primary Care Centre.
A city MP who has been ‘inundated with calls’ about people in their seventies being asked to travel to the other side of the city without a car branded the situation ‘shambolic’.
It comes as the winter flu vaccination programme has been taken over by local health and social care services for the first time this year as part of a deal with the British Medical Association.
Mr Ferri who was discharged from hospital in July following a three-month battle with the virus said jags need to be available in local communities.
His wife May, 82, is recovering from a broken femur. The couple are housebound and get support from carers.
Mr Ferri said: “I collapsed at home and was taken to the Western General. They saved my life. I had clots in my lungs and was on oxygen. It was frightening. I was at deaths door.
“Covid-19 has damaged my lungs. I already had breathing difficulties before because I have asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I can still get about the
house but I’ve lost the confidence to go out. We’re both unable to travel.
“I called the national helpline and was advised there’s nothing in place to help people in these circumstances and to call back in a couple of weeks. We can’t get out to near the
airport in our condition. It’s out of the question. I can’t walk more than 20 yards. My wife is recovering from a broken femur. The nearest public transport would be a tram to the Gyle
then it’s a long walk. We can’t afford taxis.”
“This a terrible situation. Due to the grossly inconvenient location of the vaccine centre I predict a very low take up of the jab. Even healthy people will be put off going out that far, people have busy lives. They need to provide jabs in local communities.”
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The flu programme which started this month has been extended to include more eligible groups. But GPs across Scotland are no longer contracted to deliver flu vaccines.
Public Health Scotland states on its website that it’s vital to “do all that we can” to reduce the impact of seasonal flu on those most at risk, who are also more vulnerable to covid-19.
Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “My office is getting inundated with calls from older residents who are encountering problems with the flu jab programme.
“People in their seventies are being asked to travel as far as Midlothian or get to the other side of the city without a car.
“Once again, the process appears shambolic. We had major problems with the Covid vaccination programme in Edinburgh and the Lothians, with the roll-out left lagging far behind the rest of the country and older people waiting anxiously for their jags.
“It seems that lessons have not been learned and the new SNP Health Secretary needs to come out of hiding and get on top of this before it’s too late.”
Judith Proctor, Chief Officer of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We are aware of an issue with the scheduling of some Flu appointments via the national booking system. This has resulted in some people’s appointments not being as local as we had expected. We know how concerning this is for people who cannot travel and I am very sorry for the worry this is causing those that have received appointment letters already.
“We understand NHS National Services Scotland, who run the booking system, are investigating how the issue has arisen and additional booking slots are being created to enable people to attend a more local appointment.
“For those that cannot leave their home, they will be contacted over the next few weeks to arrange a visit at their house, if anyone needs to make enquires they should also contact the Lothian helpline.”
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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have developed our public health marketing campaign across TV, radio and media outlets. This will be based on research and insight on effective messaging in light of Covid-19. The campaign will also involve close partnership work with public, private and third sector organisations to amplify our message.
“The Seasonal Flu Immunisation Programme helps to protect the most vulnerable and alleviate pressure on the NHS and social care services. This is more important than ever in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Responsibility for delivering the Seasonal Flu Vaccine in 2021/22 rests with health boards and Integration Authorities. NHS Scotland Health Boards will use a delivery model which is most suitable for their local circumstances, whilst maintaining a Covid-19 safe environment and maximising efficiency. This is a change from previous years, where GP practices, took the lead role in providing flu immunisations.”