NHS Fife has pledged to learn lessons from its flu jabs debacle before the introduction of any Covid-19 vaccine.
Chief executive Carol Potter said staff would scrutinise details of what went wrong when the region’s efforts to vaccinate thousands of at risk patients got under way a fortnight ago.
She said the work done would ensure the board was “absolutely on the front foot” when a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available.
Ms Potter and NHS Fife chairwoman Tricia Marwick have apologised after the flu vaccination programme was thrown into chaos when phone lines were jammed by people trying to book appointments.
NHS Scotland sent 75,000 letters to the region’s over-65s in one day but only eight call handlers were deployed in Fife, with the capacity to answer 12,000 calls a week. Extra staff have since been called in to help.
While more than 6,000 vaccines have already been administered, staff are still working through a backlog of calls – 2,000 were reported at this Wednesday’s Fife Health Board meeting – and have asked people to wait until the end of next week before attempting to phone again.
Ms Potter said she had expected the letters to go out in batches.
At this week’s meeting, Fife Council’s health and social care spokesman David Graham questioned the ability to cope with future vaccination programmes.
He said: “There is concern in the community that if we’re struggling with the flu vaccine process then how are we going to manage a Covid vaccination process?”
Ms Potter said she would ensure the board was aware of how any future correspondence was being issued from NHS Scotland at a national level.
“We will take a very detailed report to the clinical governance committee to cover lessons learned and provide assurance of the actions under way,” she said.
“It’s important we acknowledge we are looking at this in terms of when, and if, a Covid vaccine becomes available we’re absolutely on the front foot.”
In the meantime, patients who have been unable to book a flu jab appointment have been urged to remain patient.
Only those who have received a letter – predominantly the over-65s – are being offered appointments at the moment and letters will be issued in batches to other at risk groups later.
The flu vaccine is not being administered at GP surgeries this year but at 90 community venues across Fife to ensure social distancing and other infection measures are in place.
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