FEARS have been raised that the housebound elderly are being left behind in the vaccine rollout, with some people in their 90s and 100s or those with serious health conditions yet to be contacted.
The is aware of cases including two housebound Glasgow patients – a 102-year-old woman and an 84-year-old with heart failure and the chronic lung condition, COPD – who have yet to receive any word of their vaccinations, at a time when 29 per cent of those aged 70 to 75 have been inoculated.
A 97-year-old, who survived sepsis during last year’s lockdown and a heart attack in 2019, was finally given her first dose at her retirement home in Renfrew yesterday – just hours after the alerted the health board to her case.
One relative who has been trying to arrange an appointment for her 95-year-old father, who is housebound in East Renfrewshire, described the process as “exhausting and frustrating” for families who are being “sent from pillar to post then back again”.
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It comes after warnings at the weekend that some housebound elderly were “feeling abandoned and forgotten” while delivery is being accelerated for younger groups able to attend mass vaccination hubs.
The Scottish Government says that more than 95% of over-80s living in the community have now been vaccinated, with Nicola Sturgeon hailing the uptake as “way beyond anything that we dared hope for just a few weeks ago”.
The First Minister said she did not have exact figures for the percentage of the housebound population not yet vaccinated, but urged eligible over-70s to call the national Covid helpline on 0800 030 8013.
To date 15.9% of Scotland’s population has had at least one dose, compared to 19.2% in Wales, 18.7% in England, and 16% in Wales
She said: “The health boards are still working through [this group], although I know a lot of them have been done.”
In most cases, district nurses are inoculating the housebound based on patient lists provided to the health board by GP practices.
Even prior to the pandemic district nurses were under immense pressure with nearly one in 10 posts empty, however, with the virus triggering a surge in their workload as more people than ever are now sick or dying at home, instead of in hospital.
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Glasgow GP Dr John Montgomery, whose practice of 5,500 patients opted to vaccinate their own housebound patients, said they felt they could get it done more quickly without burdening “swamped” district nurse colleagues.
Dr John Montgomery said his practice opted to vaccinate their own housebound patients rather than ‘burden’ district nurse teams
They succeeded in vaccinating all 30 of their housebound over-80s in a single day.
Dr Montgomery, a partner at the David Elder Medical Practice in Govan and chair of the south Glasgow GP committee, said: “We knew that if this was going to fall on the shoulders of our district nurse colleagues it was inevitably going to create delays, because they have been – and are – swamped.
“The unsung heroes of the pandemic are our district nurses.
“They came into the pandemic not in the greatest shape because of disinvestment and they have been hit with all the stresses and strains of frontline working in the pandemic, and then you’re asking them to take on vaccinations as well.”
Dr Montgomery stressed, however, that practices in more affluent suburbs, where many more people live into their 80s and 90s, would probably struggle to vaccinate all their housebound patients without help.
Paul John Barham, an architect in Glasgow, had been trying for the past week to arrange a vaccination for his 97-year-old mother Barbara, who had heard nothing about an appointment.
He was passed between his mother’s GP surgery, district nurse, and the Covid helpline, only to learn at the weekend that there was no record of her on the housebound list.
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Mr Barham: “When I phoned back to the helpline they said ‘there’s nothing more we can do about it but here’s the website and the phone number to raise a complaint’.
“I didn’t want to complain – I just wanted to get my Mum’s vaccination sorted out.
“The final irony was that the number they’d given me for a complaint was no longer operable because their resources ‘had been transferred to the Covid helpline’. It’s all a bit Kafkaesque.”
Mr Barham was particularly worried as his mother had nearly died due to sepsis last year and is visited by four carers each day at her home in Renfrew, increasing the risk of infection.
Housebound Barbara Barham, 97, from Renfrew was vaccinated yesterday after her case was raised with the health board
However, within hours of the contacting NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde about the case, Mrs Barham was vaccinated yesterday.
Mr Barham, who said a friend’s 102-year-old housebound aunt in Glasgow is also still waiting, added: “I suspect it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been rattling every cage.”
Another woman told the she had been trying in vain to get the Covid jag for her 95-year-old father, in East Renfrewshire.
She said: “I tried the helpline but they can only assist if there’s been a letter so only suggested I contact his GP. His GP is not returning calls about vaccinations.
“I’ve left a message on East Renfrewshire Council’s Facebook page as they posted that they were vaccinating the housebound. It’s very upsetting and frustrating.”
Several people have also been taking to social media to complain.
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Among them is Caroline Doran, an accountant who tweeted that she was “at the end of my tether” chasing a vaccination for her 84-year-old mother, who is housebound in Glasgow and has congestive heart failure and COPD.
She wrote: “Really quite frustrating when healthy under 80s are getting vaccinated…[I’m] at a loss quite frankly, and disgusted.”
Inverness-based GP Dr Iain Kennedy has also raised concerns about vaccinations for the housebound.
Dr Iain Kennedy said his practice had been contacted by people complaining about delays in vaccinating housebound elderly
Dr Kennedy, the medical secretary for Highland Local Medical Committee (LMC), told the i newspaper on Sunday that his surgery had managed to inoculate 82% of their over-80s, with the remaining 18% who were still waiting for jags mainly made up of those who are housebound.
He told the newspaper: “We’re getting complaints – I had two yesterday – from housebound patients and their relatives that they have still not been vaccinated.
“I’ve had GPs from other parts of Scotland phoning me about their relatives in the Highlands, asking why they have not been vaccinated. I had two calls from GPs yesterday concerned about their relatives.”
Dr Kennedy blamed the “long term under-investment” in community nursing, adding: “We appear to be seeing the impact of that in that housebound patients are being slow to be vaccinated and are telling us they are feeling abandoned and forgotten.”
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In a statement, NHS GGC said the “vast majority” of over-80s, including the housebound, have had a first vaccine dose.
It stated: “We would like to thank our staff for their hard work in rolling out the vaccine, along with everyone who has taken the opportunity to be vaccinated so far.
“The vast majority of people over the age of 80 have now been vaccinated including housebound patients who have been vaccinated by local HSCPs [Health and Social Care Partnerships].
“There may, however, be a very small amount of housebound patients who are yet to receive their vaccine.
“For those patients, our local HSCPs continue to work closely with GPs to make sure we can identify them and arrange appointments as soon as possible.
“Anyone housebound over the age of 80 who is still waiting for an appointment and hasn’t already done so, should contact their local GP who will pass their information onto the local HSCP to arrange for a visit.
“They can also contact the vaccine helpline on 0800 030 8013 and will be advised appropriately.”