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​Nairn row over switching Covid jags to Community and Arts Centre

By Donald Wilson

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Nairn Community and Arts Centre.
Nairn Community and Arts Centre.

NAIRN’S two community councils are to protest to NHS Highland about the switching of Covid immunisations from Nairn Hospital to the Nairn Community and Arts Centre.

At a meeting of Nairn River Community Council last Wednesday it was reported that there was considerable confusion among patients about the last minute change which enabled them to get their jabs at the centre rather than having to travel to the Eastgate Centre in Inverness.

And there were calls for the service to be reinstated at the hospital which is run by the Nairn Healthcare Group GP practice.

Previous immunisations had all taken place during the height of the pandemic at the Nairn Healthcare Centre at Nairn Town and County Hospital. The service provided earned high praise from local residents.

But under a new agreement between the Scottish Government and the British Medical Association, the latest boosters and future immunisations are to be delivered from vaccination hubs and removed from GP practices. NHS Grampian has set up a similar hub in Elgin town centre, with patients travelling from Forres and further afield.

The Nairn Healthcare Centre is run by local GPs. Although broadly welcoming that they never had to make a round trip to Inverness for their spring booster, patients arriving for the clinic at the Nairn Community Centre described the situation as ‘shambolic’.

Bob Ross (75) said he got his letter to go to Inverness but never received notification that he could get it in Nairn. He explained: “I heard on Monday there was word I could get the vaccination so at 4pm I went on to the helpline. It took half-an-hour to get through and the lady was helpful.

“I don’t know why they moved it from the hospital in the first place. It was a great service. But they need to get this sorted out.”

Pat Mills (85), who lives near the town centre, tried to get through to the helpline.

“It took ages and I got nowhere. I wouldn’t have made it to Inverness and I haven’t walked this distance for a long time and I live close to the centre.”

Mr Mills said he too phoned the helpline about getting the jab in Nairn but they knew nothing about it.

“The whole thing seems to have been rushed and disorganised. It was shambolic. I’ve no problem with the centre being used but the hospital provided a great service too.”

Li Young, who is registered blind, had to make the trip to Inverness with her guide dog for her inoculation.

“I was heading to the railway station for my appointment when I was told about the centre being used. I just boarded the train and went through anyway.”

Another pensioner Carole Lohoar describing her experience said she discovered from and article published on-line by the Inverness Courier on Monday evening (April 18) and contacted the helpline on Tuesday but nobody knew anything about the switch to the community centre.

Mrs Lohoar said she eventually phoned the Nairn Healthcare Centre where she had her previous three Covid vaccinations only to be told they had nothing to do with the Spring boosters.

“I wondered if she had local knowledge of what was happening in Nairn but she didn’t. it was all a nightmare.”

In frustration she ended up taking a bus to Inverness for her appointment instead of walking five minutes to the Nairn CC.At Wednesday’s meeting of Nairn River CC Brian Stewart, secretary of Nairn West and Suburban CC, said: “There has been a lot of confusion over delivery of the vaccine. The arrangement seems to be an ‘ad-hoc’ clinic at the Community Centre and the Nairn health centre has been shut out of the entire operation. The NHS shouldn’t be trying to deliver this service at an ad hoc facility when we have an excellent health service in Nairn with its own fully trained staff. The community centre is not a health centre.”

NWSCC would be asking the health board to review the matter and reinstate the service at the hospital. Nairn River CC said they would support this.

NHS Highland said: “We are pleased to announce that further clinics in Nairn have been confirmed on May 4, 18, June 1 and 29. We have added these to our website. The clinics will be held in the
Nairn Community and Arts Centre. We are extremely grateful for their support in helping us deliver these clinics. The new GMS contract (2018) signalled a shift of vaccine activity out of general practice to NHS board delivered models under the Vaccination Transformation Programme. The transfer of vaccinations is a priority for all boards in Scotland to achieve in full by March 2023.”We are working to transfer all vaccines out of general practice on a phased basis over the next year in order to meet this target. We are grateful our GPs were heavily involved in the Covid-19 vaccination programme but we’re now in a position as a board to transfer this activity along with flu vaccines.”

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