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It has been claimed that NHS Lothian is facing a debilitating staff shortage with more than 400 shifts unfilled between Monday and Thursday of this week.
A text sent to qualified healthcare staff by NHS Lothian last week urged individuals to volunteer at understaffed mass vaccination centres. The request alarmed individuals who are fearful NHS Lothian does not have the staff needed to vaccinate patients at the speed required.
And now the Scottish Government says “military support” will “shortly be deployed to ensure the acceleration of the vaccination programme”.
The army has been providing support in Scotland to both the testing and vaccination programme since the beginning of the year.
NHS Lothian has denied it is experiencing shortages of vaccinators but has admitted to issuing the urgent alert appealing for immediate help.
Nurse director of primary and community care at NHS Lothian Pat Wynne said recruiting extra staff members to work alongside the core staff is “standard practise.”
He said: “It is standard practice for us to ask our qualified vaccinator volunteers to support our core team by volunteering for shifts to help ensure we can meet this additional capacity.
“This is a massive programme and our teams are working hard to vaccinate as many people as possible and we do appreciate your patience and understanding.”
The healthcare leader went on to say the need for new volunteers is due to an acceleration of the programme which will see 11,000 extra people vaccinated per week.
He said: “In line with new national guidance the vaccination programme is being accelerated to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, while completing second dose appointments and those who have rescheduled. This will mean an increase of 11,000 appointments this week.”
The correspondence, sent last week, read: "Covid mass vaccination centres are in a critical position on Monday 31 May.
"We urgently require vaccinators in all sites this week. Please consider helping the NHS in this difficult period".
Staff shortage has previously caused problems throughout the region’s mass vaccination centres.
Hundreds of vaccine receivers were left queuing for over three hours outside the Royal Highland Centre, after problems with staffing led to huge delays.
Scenes at the Ingliston hub on Monday, May 24 were described as “pandemonium” by one onlooker who said hundreds of people had to wait in queues stretching over 100 yards.
NHS Lothian was forced to issue an apology for these delays and admitted problems were caused by staffing issues.
Difficulties around care provision come as NHS Lothian enters its busiest period of the vaccine rollout.
The health board has to date vaccinated more than 700,000 people in Lothian and aims to continue vaccinating record numbers this week.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said last night: “We are working closely with NHS Lothian to ensure it can increase the number of vaccination appointments in line with national guidance, including military support which will shortly be deployed to ensure the acceleration of the vaccination programme.”