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Fury as more folk told ‘get jags in Inverness’ as NHS Highland withdraws vaccination services from Nairn

By Alasdair Fraser

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Laurie Fraser, Nairn Provost. Picture: Gary Anthony
Laurie Fraser, Nairn Provost. Picture: Gary Anthony

Anger has greeted an NHS Highland decision to withdraw vaccination services from Nairn.

Under new arrangements, all Nairnshire patients will be asked to travel to Inverness to get their jags.

Previously during the pandemic, the area’s 16,000 healthcare population was vaccinated at the Nairn Healthcare Group’s GP surgery at Nairn Town and County Hospital.

Community leaders and a Highland MSP have condemned the switch to an NHS clinic within the city’s Eastgate Shopping Centre, raising fears it could lead to a significant drop in local people being immunised.

The Nairnshire healthcare catchment embraces places like Ardersier, Tornagrain, Auldearn and Glenferness, and all rural dwellers west of the Moray border.

Around 2500 people from Nairn will be invited to attend for a booster vaccination this spring.

Nairn Provost Laurie Fraser, independent councillor for Nairn and Cawdor, said: “There’s going to be a lot of anger over this when letters start dropping through doors.It makes absolutely no sense to ask people to travel to Inverness for vaccinations, with all the time, cost and inconvenience that involves. Nairn’s health centre did such a fantastic job for many thousands of people previously.

“It will be bad enough for those who drive, but others will have to use public transport and a fair number are still reluctant to do that given the Covid risk.

“Nairn also has well above the average numbers of elderly residents. It is asking a lot of them.”

Retired GP Alastair Noble, interim chairman of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council, wrote to NHS Highland chief executive Pam Dudek calling for a rethink.

The letter praises the “exemplary” efforts of Nairn Healthcare in vaccinating the local population and expresses “dismay and concern” over the policy change.

It states: “Nairn residents are now expected to attend a central Inverness shopping centre for all vaccinations, necessitating a 40-plus mile round trip and parking fees.

“This translates into thousands of unnecessary journeys at a time of climate emergency.

“Prior to this, Nairn Healthcare have given a superb service, especially during the pandemic when more than 800 vaccinations were being carried out daily.

“This withdrawal of service will especially affect the elderly and also young parents who can surely expect that their babies will be vaccinated locally, not subjected to several expensive and lengthy journeys for a very routine procedure.

“The decision is bound to affect uptake, and brings into question NHS Highland’s commitment to equality of access and ‘levelling up’ disadvantaged groups.

“We ask that there is a very rapid reconsideration of this unfortunate, discriminatory and illogical decision.”

Highland MSP Rhoda Grant said: “It is concerning that people are being asked to travel to Inverness for their fourth injection.

Labour's Rhoda Grant MSP.Picture Gary Anthony.
Labour's Rhoda Grant MSP.Picture Gary Anthony.

“By definition, these people are vulnerable and it may not be easy for them to travel. I will be writing to NHS Highland to ensure boosters are made available locally, and at home where necessary.”

Fellow MSP Emma Roddick said: “I’ve spent the day in Nairn hearing about the pressure this is putting on individuals and groups like Wheels in Nairnshire, not only the hassle this causes, but the scale of unnecessary travel.

“I have reached out to NHS Highland to seek a local solution.”

A 2021 Scottish Government update to the national GPs contract and memorandum of understanding stated: “GP practices will not provide any vaccinations under their core contract from April 1, 2022.”

However, overall control of where vaccinations are delivered rests with boards like NHS Highland.

A spokeswoman for NHS Highland said: “Those being invited for their spring booster are being asked to attend vaccination centres run by NHS Highland. This will allow us to vaccinate a large number of the population in a few key locations, allowing us to efficiently use the vaccination team’s resources.

“Inverness is currently the closest vaccination centre to Nairn, but we continue to review our capacity and are actively establishing plans to hold clinics in other locations, such as Nairn.”

Dr Adrian Baker, a senior partner in Nairn Healthcare Group, said: “We ran an extremely successful vaccination campaign, with high local uptake and extremely low wastage. We’ve received a lot of positive comments from the community.

“We would be very happy to continue to provide this service locally.”

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