The Scottish Government’s health minister has been urged to meet local chiefs in the north-east over issues with this year’s flu vaccination programme.
This year is the first in which health boards, rather than GPs, have had responsibility for delivering the vaccine.
However, the rollout has been hit by problems, including the late arrival of letters and engaged phone lines.
Now West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie has urged Holyrood health secretary Jeane Freeman to meet NHS Grampian to discuss how the problems can be resolved.
He said: “This is the first year in which Grampian is delivering flu vaccine, and I don’t think the enormity of the task they face can be overstated.
“I know that some extra steps are being taken to address the phone lines issue, and the late letters should hopefully be fixed soon.
“However I feel there should be additional support for NHS Grampian, crucially in managing stock levels and in co-ordinating the approach across Scotland.
“I also have some concerns, relayed by constituents, about whether older people are getting the right priority for vaccination – those among the highest of at-risk groups for coronavirus.”
So far, around 52,000 people in the north-east have been vaccinated as part of the programme.
He said: “We need people to be patient with us. Everyone will receive their appointment letter in the next three to four weeks. Please do not call the helpline if you haven’t received your letter. We will get to you. If you do need to call the helpline if you could leave it until later in the week that would be very helpful.
“Please be reassured people who have missed their appointment will get another appointment. Anyone who has not received a letter, please don’t worry, the flu programme runs for many weeks yet, the letters are sent out in batches not all at the same time.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Health Secretary meets regularly with all health boards including NHS Grampian and there is regular engagement with Scottish Government officials and NHS Scotland Boards. Where additional support is requested from a board we respond quickly.
“We know boards, including NHS Grampian, have seen an increased and earlier demand this year for the vaccine from eligible groups. Ministers are closely monitoring the situation, and are in regular discussion with boards to ensure that those at the greatest clinical risk from seasonal flu are able to receive their vaccination in advance of flu season which is between December and January.
“The Scottish Government have procured enough vaccine to vaccinate all those who are eligible, modelled on a demand of 2.4 million people. We are working closely with National Services Scotland to ensure that Boards can access this stock as required. All Health Boards are working with the Scottish Government, focusing upon improved delivery and dealing with the unprecedented demand for seasonal flu vaccinations.”