Coronavirus: Anger over jags for ‘back office’ NHS staff
NHS office staff who have no contact with patients are being vaccinated ahead of some frontline colleagues and vulnerable groups.
Healthcare administrators in Glasgow are among those due to be vaccinated at the Louisa Jordan hub next week, despite limited vaccine supplies which are not yet available to under-80s or those shielding with medical conditions.
One member of the public, who asked not to be named, said her sister who “works in a back office and has absolutely no dealings with Covid patients” is among those invited to attend the centre next week, along with office colleagues.
She said: “I completely back the Government’s decision to prioritise front-line NHS staff, but find it beyond belief that they’re giving all NHS staff jags before people like our dad, who is over 80, vulnerable and shielding, or teachers to get schools opened.”
It comes as thousands of GP vaccinators are yet to receive their first vaccine dose, leading to warnings that the rollout to over-80s in the community will be slowed.
There was also frustration for dozens of NHS staff who queued for hours at Glasgow Royal Infirmary for their vaccinations on Tuesday, after a shortage of vaccinators led to a number of appointments being cancelled earlier in the day.
Although the health board said staff who missed their scheduled appointment would be immunised before the end of this week, the Herald has heard of staff members – including some with heart problems and diabetes – struggling to rebook through online and telephone systems.
National priority guidelines drawn up by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) states that it considers “frontline health and social care workers who provide care to vulnerable people [to be] a high priority for vaccination” and that this should include “those working in hospice care and those working temporarily in the Covid-19 vaccination programme”
It adds that priority within frontline health and social staff should cover those “at high risk of acquiring infection, at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to multiple vulnerable persons or other staff in a healthcare environment”.
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman, Monica Lennon, said: “It’s vital that NHS staff are given clear information about the vaccination rollout.
“The Health Secretary will need to explain why non-patient facing staff have been given greater priority than those staff who are on the frontline providing patient care.
“Communications with staff need to improve so that everyone can feel confident that the vaccine rollout is working efficiently.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Health boards are fully aware of the need to work within the nationally agreed prioritisation schedule to manage the distribution of vaccine supplies, which remain limited at this time.
“This quite rightly includes a small number of ancillary staff, such as cleaners, porters, secretaries and receptionists who have contact with patients and clinical staff in COVID-19 red pathways and as part of vaccinations teams.”
In a statement, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “We have had a very high uptake of the vaccine so far with thousands of eligible staff and care home residents vaccinated already.
“We strictly adhere to the Scottish Government’s prioritisation guidelines for the vaccine.
“In line with this guidance and following a risk assessment, any member of staff – clinical or non-clinical – who either directly works on, or is deemed to have contact with a COVID-19 red pathway, can receive the vaccine.
“This includes staff working in our Community Assessment Centres. The risk assessment also allows for high-risk, BAME [Black and minority ethnic] and staff over the age of 65 to be vaccinated.”
To date, 113,459 people in Scotland have had one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, with the first inoculations using the new Oxford vaccine underway this week.
Nicola Sturgeon said the programme is “well over halfway through” vaccinating elderly care home residents, who accounted for more than a quarter of Covid deaths last week.
All over-80s will be invited for vaccination in the coming weeks, mostly through their GP practice, with 1100 vaccination sites due to be operational from next week.
Ms Sturgeon urged people to be patient if they have not yet been contacted.
She said: “Don’t worry if you haven’t yet had your call or letter, these are being aligned with the availability of supply and it will be coming to you soon. We are aiming to have all over-80s receive their first dose of the vaccine over the next four weeks.
“Vaccination is what will ultimately provide us with a route out of this pandemic so we are absolutely determined that as many people as possible are vaccinated just as quickly as it is possible to do so.”
However, the Scottish Conservatives warned of an “emerging postcode lottery” in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, with some care homes having barely vaccinated any residents and an Edinburgh GP surgery with 14,000 patients says it will receive 100 doses per week.
The party’s health spokesman, Donald Cameron, said: “We all want the this vaccine to be delivered successfully but the flu jab rollout was a shambles last year and the warning signs are there that a similar situation is developing.”