The nation remains around four weeks behind England with doctors saying they are being pressurised for political reasons to move patients to mass vaccination centres and away from GP practices, where they believe patients are better served due to trust issues and accessibility.
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Dr Iain Kennedy, a GP at Riverside Medical Practice, Inverness, told i that his surgery had managed to inoculate 82 per cent of the 80+ age group with the remaining 18 per cent still waiting for their jab mainly made up of those who are housebound.
“We’re getting complaints – I had two yesterday – from housebound patients and their relatives that they have still not been vaccinated,” he said. “I’ve had GPs from other parts of Scotland phoning me about their relatives in the Highlands, asking why they have not been vaccinated. I had two calls from GPs yesterday concerned about their relatives. Now that’s quite a big thing to happen as you don’t want to interfere [with colleagues]. It’s unusual for professionals to phone other professionals [for help].”
Dr Kennedy said responsibility to vaccinate the housebound is down to regional health boards rather than GP practices. “I do have sympathy with my community nursing colleagues because there has been long term under-investment in Scotland in community nurses. We appear to be seeing the impact of that in that housebound patients are being slow to be vaccinated and are telling us they are feeling abandoned and forgotten. I think we need to shine a light on this issue now. We need them to be prioritised.”
Dr Kennedy also said surgeries are coming under “continuous pressure” to hand over responsibility for the next age groups to mass vaccination centres, run by health boards
He said: “We’ve already witnessed the white elephants of the Nightingale Hospitals, like the Luisa Jordan in Scotland, which have been barely used. Then we have many Covid assessment centres, many of which were also largely empty white elephants. And we don’t seem to be learning for this.
“To our members it looks like a political box-ticking exercise, where the politicians want to be able to say they have delivered mass vaccination clinics across all health boards. Our members in the Highlands are very clear that they want to be able to keep vaccinating their patients. Our practices will feel undermined if we are pushed into mass vaccination clinics that we don’t want.”
Efficiently as possible
Dr Andrew Buist, Chair of BMA Scotland GPs, said: “I completely understand the desire of GPs and their patients to provide the vaccine in surgeries where possible – we are desperately keen to get this done and get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“However, we also need to ensure we retain sufficient capacity at practices for our crucial day-to-day work of caring for the sick in our local communities. It is important to strike that balance between the huge demands of vaccinating the whole population and providing other aspects of care, and the system in place in Scotland allows GP surgeries to make their own decisions – working with health boards – based on their own circumstances about their level of involvement in the vaccination programme.
“Getting to housebound patients, again is a particular challenge – where geography and issues such as rurality will be factors in areas such as Highland. We need to keep working together to find the best solutions and I know GPs are doing that across Scotland.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “99 per cent of elderly care home residents have received their first dose in Scotland, as have 92 per cent of people aged over 80 in the community. GPs and practice staff have been supporting the vaccination programme while maintaining core practice services and we thank them for their hard work.
“We are in regular contact with boards to ensure GPs have the most up to date information on when supply is available and we clearly set out our expectations by providing as much detail as we can while rightly allowing our teams to focus on the task of delivering the biggest vaccination programme ever seen in Scotland.
“The single rate limiting step in the early stages of the Covid-19 vaccination program is both the supply, and the evenness supply of vaccines. The volume of available supply of the vaccine is growing week by week and this should provide the necessary assurances to GP practices that they can plan for clinics with confidence.”
— to inews.co.uk