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Patience urged by health bosses as anger grows in Aviemore over lack of jags

By Tom Ramage

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The lack of clinics and information on Covid boosters and flu jags has cast a shadow over the recent move by Aviemore health centre to the new Badenoch and Strathspey Community Hospital in the village. Picture: Alessandro Delicata
The lack of clinics and information on Covid boosters and flu jags has cast a shadow over the recent move by Aviemore health centre to the new Badenoch and Strathspey Community Hospital in the village. Picture: Alessandro Delicata

Health bosses are urging for patience from residents in Aviemore as anger grows over the failure to stage any clinics so far for Covid-19 boosters and flu vaccinations in the village.

NHS Highland and Aviemore Medical Practice finally provided an update on the controversy as the Strathy was going to press yesterday after days of trying to get some answers.

Highland Council convener Bill Lobban said that his in-box had been inundated with complaints from patients concerned by the lack of local provision.

He said that residents were being treated 'like mushrooms' and slammed the complete lack of communication as anxiety continues to grow.

Patients currently face a round trip of more than 60 miles to Smithton by Inverness – a very involved trip by public transport – or even Wick 130 miles away to get their safeguards.

Covid-19 vaccines and flu jags have been provided at clinics held at Aviemore Community Centre in the past on a regular basis.

NHS Highland chief executive Pam Dudek.
NHS Highland chief executive Pam Dudek.

Pam Dudek, NHS Highlands chief executive, told the Strathy: “We are working on improved communications with regards to the vaccination programme.

"We will shortly be issuing more locally based information for the public.

"In the meantime, where people wish to travel to Inverness or Wick to central clinics on the back of an invite offering that option, they are entitled to do so.

"We are however working on a schedule of more local clinics, recognising that for many centralised clinics is not a reasonable option.

“Our vaccination programme will run into January, with vulnerable groups being prioritised.

"We are working to a tight timescale with more vaccinations that need to be delivered than our previous programme, so the conditions are very different."

Ms Dudek continued: “GPs are not obliged to provide vaccination and do so contractually based on their own set of circumstances and workloads, so this does make for a variable programme of delivery.

"We absolutely need this blended approach to ensure that we, along with our general practice colleagues, are able to cover the breadth of health and care requirements alongside the vaccination programme.

"We understand how confusing this can be for people and are taking measures to try to ensure our messages are clear and tailored to your local area.

“Everyone who is eligible will get their vaccination and we would ask for patience now as we roll out this extensive programme.

“We are also taking steps to urgently review and improve our telephone line recognising the high volume of calls received and some of the challenges people have had using it.”

Aviemore Medical Practice manager Vera Haringman said: "I fully appreciate the concern local people are having about the flu and Covid booster clinics for Aviemore patients.

"NHSH are presently organising local clinics for our patients and one of the options they are looking at is using the old health centre building in Aviemore and eligible people will be contacted directly by them in due course.

"As far as I’m aware it is the plan that if people are eligible for both the Covid booster and the flu vaccines they will get these at the same appointment.

"The only reason we are referring people to clinics in Smithton is because some people do not want to wait until the clinics are up and running in the area – the Smithton clinics then offers an alternative to those patients."

Confusion has reigned amongst Aviemore patients over where and when they will receive their Covid booster and flu vaccine.

Councillor Lobban stated on social media: "There is no information from NHS Highland as to when vaccinations will take place in Aviemore. Quite what is going on in Aviemore is anyone's guess.

"Being treated like mushrooms is not good enough. Just tell us what is going on!"

He said he had held a 'fractious meeting' with NHS Highland on Tuesday evening and remarked: "Obviously we now have a two tier health service with some GP practices doing their best to support their local community, including Grantown and Kingussie, whilst others are not.

"Clearly NHS Highland has known for some considerable time that some GP practices would opt out so where is Plan B and when will people in Aviemore be getting their jags?"

There have been a slew of complaints from patients waiting to be protected from Covid and flu.

One concerned local posted: "My parents are pensioners and not heard anything about booster jab – relations in Motherwell got offered booster 10 days ago but Aviemore was one of the best in Highlands for first two jabs."

Kincraig resident Laùra Hänsler stated: "I'm having to go to Smithtown Church for mine, as still no firm dates for those 70+ or highly vulnerable."

Peter Mackay, also from Kincraig, said he was taken aback when inquiring about booster jabs in the Aviemore GP practice area. He said: "They more or less tell us to get lost when we ask!"

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