A charity has called for people with learning disabilities to be given better support in the coronavirus vaccination programme after a parent was asked to bring his autistic son to Dundee’s Caird Hall for his jab.
The Angus parent, who did not want to be named, said his 19-year-old found unfamiliar and busy environments, such as the community clinic in the city centre, distressing but the family was not offered an alternative.
In other areas of the UK, GPs have set up specialist clinics to help people feel more at ease.
Families ‘chasing up GPs’
Dundee-based charity PAMIS offers support to people with severe or profound learning disabilities.
Its team said vaccination programme managers needed to recognise that large public venues might not be suitable for everyone and different approaches might be necessary.
Chief executive Jenny Miller said it often fell to families to try to arrange different methods and some had found the process a challenge.
“It needs to be more tailored,” she said.
“We’ve had a number of families who have had to follow things up rather than being offered a more supportive approach.
“I know people are chasing up GPs and explaining they can’t go to a national centre.
“It is quite amazing they have managed to roll this out so quickly but it’s about seeing people as individuals.”
She urged anyone in a similar situation to contact PAMIS whose team could help chase up appointments.
The parent said he had encountered “a complete lack of understanding” in his son’s case before the family were eventually offered a jab at a local GP practice.
“I find it frightening the vaccination teams would think someone like my son could attend a big centre like that,” he added.
Health board say alternatives available
An NHS Tayside spokesperson said alternative dates and locations can be arranged if the initial one offered is not suitable.
She said: “In Tayside, people who are eligible for vaccination are mostly called directly by their GP practice or the NHS Tayside booking teams to offer an appointment.
“This enables everyone to be given an appointment at a time and venue to suit them, either at their own GP practice or a local community clinic.”
The latest groups being invited for vaccination are adult unpaid carers and those aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions (JCVI priority group 6).
“This includes people who have a learning disability,” the spokeswoman added.
“Booking teams are supported to offer everyone in this group an appointment that best meets their needs.
“If the appointment that is offered initially is not suitable for any reason, an alternative date and location can be arranged.”
The Scottish Government say guidance is available for health boards to follow.
A spokesperson said: “We recognise that not all vaccine slots are going to be suitable, which is why there is an option to reschedule them to a location closer to home, or for a different time is possible.
“The Chief Medical Officer wrote to boards to offer guidance on vaccinating those with learning difficulties last week and will provide further guidance later this week.”
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