Covid Edinburgh: 86-year-old woman queued in wind and rain for jag but health centre had changed day without telling anyone

An 86-year-old woman has told how she and others were left standing in driving wind and rain outside a city health centre for their booster jags because no-one had told them about a change in date for their vaccinations.

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The woman from Bruntsfield had been given an appointment at the Tollcross health centre in Ponton Steet on Saturday morning and turned up in good time only to find the building all locked up.

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"The gates were closed, there were people queuing, including a blind man, and no sign of anybody," she said.

Tollcross health centre in Ponton Street Image: Google Streetview

She waited 25 minutes in the hope someone would arrive and open the centre, but no-one came.

"People were angry, they were trying to phone and couldn't get through to anybody.

"It was pouring rain and there was a strong wind. One man went away to a cafe to wait there.

"After about 25 minutes I couldn't wait any longer, the weather was so dreadful."

She said she managed to contact Lothian health board on Sunday and was told the health centre had decided to switch its booster jags sessions from a Saturday to a Sunday, but didn't tell anyone.

"It's absolutely shocking – they just hung us out to dry,” she said.

"They keep saying on television the boosters are not being taken up, but you're trying to get booked and you can't and then they make mistakes like this.

"To let all these folk down on such a day was just awful.

"Having to stand out in the rain and wind at my age was ridiculous."

She was given another appointment for Sunday and got her jag then.

A spokesperson for the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, which is responsible for this phase of the Covid vaccination programme, apologised and said they were looking into the blunder.

She said: “With our partners, we are investigating an instance over the weekend where some people were scheduled to receive their booster vaccination at Ponton Street, and then were unable to, due to an operational change.

"We understand some people were impacted and recognise the inconvenience this has caused. As priority, we have been working hard to contact all those impacted directly to pass on our sincere apologies and ensure that they are rescheduled to receive their vaccination, without any further delay.”

The 86-year-old’s experience is just the latest in a saga of problems reported with the programme of Covid booster vaccinations.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader an Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said constituents had contacted him saying they didn’t have a car but had been given appointments in Bathgate.

"The booster programme is keeping people safe and keeping people alive and we should have this sorted by now considering the vaccine programme has been running for nearly a year now.

"We can’t be messing people about like this, particularly frail and elderly residents who are not necessarily online and are being told to attend appointments which are then moved without notice. Added to that, many vulnerable residents without transport are being asked to attend locations many miles from their home without any indication as to how they should get there.

“Those in charge of this need to get their act together.”

Another woman spoke of her dismay at the mess over appointments for jags after her husband was expected to travel to East Lothian for an early morning vaccination.

She said: "I cannot believe the shambles being made of the flu and Covid booster roll-out in the Lothians.

"My husband, who is 75, was offered his flu jag at Haddington early on a Saturday. We live in Portobello and do not have a car.

"We cancelled that and were fortunate to get ours at the local chemist. Thank goodness for our pharmacies.

"Now he has been bumped off the system and goodness knows when or where he will get the Covid booster, which worries him a great deal.

"I have tried to get through on the phone but lines are constantly engaged from 8.30am onwards.

"The online service is dreadful. I tried to rearrange my appointment – 3.40pm at Ingliston – but now they can only offer appointments in West Lothian or Dalkeith. I am my mother’s sole carer and cannot leave her for very long and I am wary of being on a bus for so long.

"Something needs to be done soon to ensure we remain protected through the coming winter.”

One couple in Leith, who do not have a car, were given appointments separately at Ingliston and at the BioQuarter next to the Royal Infirmary, even though they live just a stone’s throw from the Leith community treatment centre in Junction Place, which is also serving as a vaccination centre.

And on Monday the Evening News told how Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson’s mother and mother-in-law were both turned away when they went for their booster jags at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

Alison Johnson and Karen Cook had coincidentally both been given early morning vaccination appointments at the hospital last Thursday, but were told when they got there the jags were for NHS staff only.

Mrs Johnson had been given her appointment by phone and Mrs Cook by text. She said they were left angry, upset, bewildered and bemused.

Daniel Johnson said they were just two of hundreds of constituents who had contacted him complaining they were unable to get booster appointments, could not rearrange them or were given appointments at centres that would require long journeys to get to.

And he called for the Scottish Government to step in and sort it out.

He said: "I have been inundated by constituents contacting me, unable to get booster appointments, rearrange appointments they are unable to attend or told to go to centres that would require long journeys to get to.

""The government needs to step in, identify the problems and put it right. People are confused and worried by a system that is getting things wrong and sending them to appointments they can’t get to or are not allowed to use."

Martin Morrison, operations director at NHS National Services Scotland for Test and Protect, said in response that the flu and Covid booster programme was delivering the most complex vaccination programme in the history of the NHS.

“The national scheduling system has successfully supported a large increase in vaccine capacity, allowing our NHS to continue to protect as many people as possible.

“We understand that some people may experience difficulty in securing a vaccine appointment which suits them, and we are constantly adding new services and clinics to drive vaccine uptake as quickly as possible. Appointment booking processes are continually being improved.

“We apologise if patients are invited to the wrong clinics and will investigate with our partners in NHS Lothian to determine what has happened and how we can avoid this happening in the future.”

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