By Owen Sheppard, local democracy reporter
Influential health campaigners say the rollout of Covid vaccines has been “chaotic” in parts London.
Hammersmith and Fulham Save our NHS (HAFSON) say they have heard reports of people successfully booking vaccine appointments by phoning their GP surgery, contrary to official advice.
The Campaign’s sister organisations in Brent and Ealing have heard similar stories, which they say risks causing “confusion” and “anxiety” among elderly people who have yet to be offered vaccination appointments.
Fulham resident Merril Hammer, a leading member of HAFSON, said: “The rollout has been chaotic in parts.
“The advice [from the NHS] has consistently been ‘do not ring, we will ring you’.
“It will cause chaos if people make their own decisions.
“What’s worrying about that is it will cause anxiety and confusion because some people will worry they’re missing out.”
The 74-year-old, whose campaign was credited with helping to save Charing Cross Hospital from closure, added: “It’s quite clear that some GP practices have been ignoring what they have been told to do.
“There’s an information vacuum that could play into the hands of the anti-vaxxers.”
It comes as the (north west) NW London division of the NHS was this week named one of the slowest areas of the country for getting jabs out to residents aged over 80.
Using NHS England data, a league table of 43 areas placed NW London third from the bottom.
By January 17, NW London had given a first dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab to 45.7 per cent of over-80s. A second dose had been given to 10.5 per cent.
Top of the table was Gloucestershire, where a first dose has been administered to 85.3 per cent of over-80s, while 3.6 per cent had received a second dose.
The eight NW London boroughs – spanning from Westminster to Hounslow and Harrow – were also the worst performing part of London.
Pippa Nightingale MBE, the vaccination programme lead for NW London, addressed the sluggish rollout during a meeting with councillors on January 14.
She said London’s “transient” population of people who have moved to second homes elsewhere in the country had distorted the data.
Ms Nightingale added that NW London has the largest population of any NHS region in England, at nearly three million people.
The NW London NHS group was approached for comment regarding the confusion over appointments and apparently slow pace of vaccinations, but there was no response.
However, Ms Nightingale last week told councillors that GPs and volunteers were “rising to the challenge” set by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of vaccinating everyone over-75 by February 14.
NHS England has said it expects to vaccinate two million people a week from mid-February.
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