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Strath's two biggest medical practices explain why they are not doing Covid and flu jags

By Gavin Musgrove

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The new Badenoch and Strathspey Hospital building which is now home to Aviemore GP Practice.
The new Badenoch and Strathspey Hospital building which is now home to Aviemore GP Practice.

The two health centres in Badenoch and Strathspey looking after the most patients have laid out their positions on why they are not offering Covid boosters and winter flu vaccines to locals.

Many people have had to travel to Smithton by Inverness to get their safeguards while thousands more locally are still waiting.

NHS Highland has started to deliver programmes for the two jags in Grantown and the first clinic will be held in Aviemore next week.

However, all patients registered at Kingussie and at Gergask medical practices are being vaccinated by their local surgery staff.

An Aviemore practice spokesperson said: "Aviemore Medical Practice fully understands the concerns that patients and others have expressed recently about vaccinations including Covid booster jabs.

"The GP contract with the government changed some years ago and responsibility for vaccinations is gradually being handed over from GP practices to local health boards.

"In line with this, the responsibility for vaccination in Aviemore has passed to the health board and we are pleased to see that they have now started to release details of both flu and covid vaccination campaigns.

"We are particularly pleased that these will now be able to take place in Aviemore, saving patients the inconvenience of having to travel to other locations."

The spokesperson continued: "Despite staffing pressures additional commitment from GPs and staff has allowed us to extend services to provide in-patient care in the new Badenoch and Strathspey Community Hospital as well as maintaining existing primary care and out of hours services.

"Reception staff have had to deal with a higher volume of queries and we are very grateful to those patients and members of the public who have been understanding and supportive of all of our staff during these challenging times."

The health centre said additional information about its GP services is available at www.aviemoremedical.co.uk and is updated regularly.

Grantown Medical Practice has also outlined its stance after being contacted by the Strathy.

Dr Julie McIlwaine said: "There is a national shortage of GPs and, not unrelated, a historic lack of funding for General Practice.

"In 2016, to try and support General Practice, the Scottish Government pledged that it would spend 11 per cent of the NHS budget in primary care.

"The additional funding was not given to GP practices but to health boards to pay for specific areas of patient care, one of which was vaccinations.

"The changes were due to be implemented by April, last year, but the Covid pandemic delayed this. The Scottish Parliament has now passed legislation removing vaccinations from General Practice services.

"Grantown-on-Spey Medical Practice agreed to deliver flu vaccinations in autumn 2020 to give the health boards time to set up their vaccination service.

"We also delivered 19 Covid vaccination clinics, often at very short notice, between January and August, earlier this year. This impacted on our ability to provide a normal service but due to the public health emergency we responded – as did the community and we remain very grateful for the many local volunteers.

"Demand for GP services has increased dramatically this year especially with the reduction in availability of hospital services.

"While we have been pleased to run these vaccination clinics, they use a lot of time and resource and the Scottish Government want us to focus on delivering other types of patient care instead.

"In autumn 2021, as per government instructions, the NHS Highland vaccination team took responsibility for delivering flu and covid vaccinations.

"Due to staffing reasons within the NHS Highland vaccination team, the practice was asked to deliver the pre-school flu vaccinations which we did.

"NHS Highland set up a local flu vaccination clinic at Inverallan Church Hall during this week.

"As soon as we learned this, we shared the details via our Facebook page which is the quickest way to send out information. There is a link on our website for patients not on Facebook – it can be found at the bottom of our home page."

The Grantown practice is again requesting that patients do not phone the practice to ask about their vaccinations but instead contact NHS Highland Vaccination Enquiry Hub on 01463 705531 or nhsh.covidvaccine@nhs.scot, 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, 10.00am to 2pm Saturday.

Staff thanked patients for their co-operation and said this would keep their phone lines clear for those with medical problems.

NHS Highland will be running its first Covid-19 booster and winter flu clinics in Aviemore from next Monday (November 15) to November 18 at the village's old medical practice – not the GP practice at the new hospital.

The sessions are 9am to 4pm and for Aviemore Medical Practice patients aged over 70 and those clinically extremely vulnerable.

All the latest details for clinics for Covid-19 boosters and winter flu jags can be found here

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