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Thurso resident was given Dunoon appointment for Covid spring booster

By Alan Hendry

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Struan Mackie said he was attacked for 'raising the matter and seeking solutions'.
Struan Mackie said he was attacked for 'raising the matter and seeking solutions'.

A Thurso resident in the over-75 age group was told to travel all the way to Dunoon for a Covid spring booster appointment, it has emerged.

It would have involved a round trip by road of well over 12 hours to the Argyll town which sits on the western shore of the Firth of Clyde.

The man was able to arrange an alternative appointment for a drop-in vaccination session in Thurso. But a further complication arose when he went along to the venue in question – only to be told that no booster clinic had been arranged for that day.

The issue was highlighted by local Highland councillor Struan Mackie, who earlier this month called for Scotland's health secretary Humza Yousaf to apologise over the "botched" spring booster appointment system which had resulted in some over-75s in Caithness being asked to travel to Inverness or Tain.

NHS Highland blamed "scheduling and appointing issues" with the national vaccination programme and gave an assurance that anyone asked to attend a vaccine clinic outside their local area could have it rearranged for a more suitable location.

Councillor Mackie accused NHS Scotland of needlessly causing panic and worry to hundreds of people and insisted Mr Yousaf should say sorry to those affected. A spokesman for Mr Yousaf later accused Councillor Mackie of "very poor form indeed" and of using an error to "talk down the efforts of our world-class vaccinators".

Councillor Mackie, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist candidate for Thurso and Northwest Caithness at next month's local government elections, pointed out this week that other members of the public had come forward with further concerns about booster appointments.

"After the Groat published the widespread issues with booster clinic invitations, a number of constituents reached out to share their experiences," he said.

"One resident, living in Thurso, received two letters in error, one instructing him to go to Dunoon and the other to attend a clinic in Inverness.

"When he rang the national appointment service to enquire about availability in Caithness, he was informed by a very helpful call handler of a booster clinic being run in the Royal British Legion in Thurso and was advised to attend the drop-in session.

"Arriving at an empty car park and with no visible signs of a drop-in, he was informed by a member of Legion staff that no booster clinic was arranged for that day and that he was one of several people to have turned up already. This was a pattern expressed by several constituents who were also provided with incorrect information, provided by the national vaccination helpline.

"Instead of apologising for the confusion and upset caused by the botched handling of invitations, Humza Yousaf chose to attack me and fellow health campaigners for raising the matter and seeking solutions. Despite assurances that this would be addressed, I am still supporting constituents by ringing helplines and seeking alternatives to this mess."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “NHS Highland has told us they are unaware of any complaints of this nature but are happy to investigate. They continue to work towards ensuring all appointments are arranged for local clinics.

“No-one will miss their spring booster and anyone who has received an appointment which they are going to find difficult to attend should call the NHS Highland vaccination hub on 08000 320 339.”

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