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Nairn community council leader is hopeful for 'common sense' vaccination programme

By Donald Wilson

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There are calls for immunisation programmes to take place at Nairn Town and County Hospital. Picture: Alison White
There are calls for immunisation programmes to take place at Nairn Town and County Hospital. Picture: Alison White

A COMMUNITY council leader who has been pressing for vaccination programmes in Nairn to be delivered through the local GP practice at the Nairn Town & County Hospital said he is hopeful that 'common sense' could prevail.

There was anger in Nairn when earlier this year patients requiring booster jabs were told they would have to travel to a designated clinic being provided at the Eastgate Centre in Inverness.

At the 11th hour following local protests the clinic was switched to the Nairn Community & Arts Centre.

But Dr Alastair Noble and local community councils have been pressing Highland Health Board to ensure any future immunisation programmes are delivered at the hospital.

Following changes in a contract negotiated nationally between the British Medical Association and GP practices a National Vaccination Transformation (VTP) programme was established to reduce the workload on hard pressed GPs.

The Nairn Healthcare GP practice who manage the Nairn Health Care Centre at the hospital were providing up to 800 immunisations a day during the height of the Covid pandemic. The practice has 15,000 patients in Nairn and Ardersier.

Dr Alastair Noble said: "The change in the delivery of this service by the Government may make sense in highly populated cities but it doesn't in the rural Highlands. While many GP practices wanted relieved of this burden, the practice at Nairn is willing to continue this service and it makes common sense that it should be delivered from the hospital where they have all the medical facilities available rather than at the community centre."

Highland Health Board Chief Executive Pam Dudek responding to Dr Noble has said if NHS Highland was to seek variation from the national VTP then there would have to be 'a clear affordable model of undertaking by general practice in terms of delivery of all the vaccination programmes at pace and in line with national standards'.

"NHS Highland would need the agreement of Scottish Government, who have stated that whole vaccination programme delivery costs will increase substantially for general practice in future years. There would also need to be a clear agreement around continued general practice delivery and not have this impacted by vaccination delivery requirements, for the whole population."

The Health Board chief has told Dr Noble she has asked for further analysis of the current position. "The uptake issue (is) clearly one I am watching closely as we try to transition.

"I remain keen to understand the best configuration going forward and I am considering whether there is a case to challenge nationally. I remain committed to improving the current situation as we move forward."

Ms Dudek confirmed that staff at NHS Highland would remain in contact with the Nairn medical practice as they seek a satisfactory way forward.

Reporting to Nairn West & Suburban Community Council Dr Noble said: "This is a very helpful letter and I welcome what she (Ms Dudek) has said.

"I have had discussions with Drew Hendry our MP and everyone thinks this is sheer madness providing a service from the community centre when we have a GP practice willing to take on this work and fully equipped at the hospital.

"During Covid there was nothing but praise for the efficiency of the service at the hospital. There was a lot of confusion with the 11th hour change to deliver the Covid boosters at the Nairn Community & Arts Centre with some patients who were unaware getting on a bus and travelling through to Inverness.

"The Nairn Community & Arts Centre is a fantastic facility and did a great job at very short notice.

"But the right and proper place for this clinic is Nairn Hospital."

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