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Wick practice on course to finish Covid booster and flu jabs by middle of December

By Alan Hendry

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Marie Mackillop gave both jabs to Callum Miller at the Pearson Practice in Wick on Tuesday.
Marie Mackillop gave both jabs to Callum Miller at the Pearson Practice in Wick on Tuesday.

Wick GP Ewen Pearson says he and his team are on course to complete their programme of Covid booster and flu jabs by mid-December.

Staff from the Pearson Practice at Wick Medical Centre are contacting patients to arrange appointments in a similar way to when the first two Covid doses were administered earlier in the year.

“If it's not broken, don't fix it," said Dr Pearson, who observed that the vaccine clinic booking system operated by NHS Highland for patients of some other practices appeared to be "very disorganised" and "almost even chaotic".

He explained that from a practice population 2242 there are 922 who are in line for both vaccines, now that patients eligible for the flu jab include those aged 50 and over.

“We are doing the flu as usual this year and we're doing the booster programme at the same time," Dr Pearson said. "I think it's much more efficient to do two vaccines at once.

“The supplies are okay. We've been told that we'll have more vaccines coming in November and they anticipate they we should have all that we need.

“We started last week and we've done about 150 so far. We're hoping to do that every one to two weeks, so ideally we should have done the majority in November and we'll certainly be finished by the middle of December.

“We're contacting patients, and it's the same as last time – we're starting with the most at-risk, so patients who are on dialysis or have transplants and those who are getting chemotherapy for cancer. Then we go down through the age groups and we do the ones who are clinically at risk.

“There has to be six months between your second dose and your booster, so there are some people who had it in May that are then due in November. It doesn't have to be exactly by the day but we are keeping an eye on that.

“You have to be pragmatic and have a bit of common sense. We did have a family where there were two elderly patients and then the daughter who was at risk.

“Obviously they can just all come down together and it's easier for the social distancing and the appointments. We are trying to do that, and I think to be honest that's something probably that is lost with the health board-run clinics where they don't really know folk very well.

“If it's not broken, don't fix it. I would regard it as bread-and-butter general practice work. We know people, they know us.

“It just seems that it's a very disorganised, almost even chaotic way that NHS Highland think they can do it better than we can – until they actually get into the nitty-gritty of it and then they realise that it is a huge amount of work and it is very complicated.”

There were reports last week of frustrating delays for callers trying to book appointments for vaccination clinics being run by NHS Highland for patients from the Riverbank practice in Thurso and Riverview in Wick. In some cases people found themselves in slow-moving phone queues, or being cut off.

Clinics for patients of these practices are taking place this Thursday and Friday in Thurso's Royal British Legion and Wick Assembly Rooms respectively. Both are fully booked but the health board is organising further sessions in each town during November, with details on its website.

There are also clinics scheduled for patients registered at the Dunbeath or Lybster practices.

NHS Highland said on Thursday its vaccination enquiry hub had experienced technical issues because of a software malfunction but this had been resolved. A spokesperson said it had resulted in "considerable frustration both for people trying to contact the team and book an appointment, and our staff", adding: "We recognise that this will have caused anxiety and stress to people trying to book vaccine appointments and we apologise for this."

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