Concerns raised over queues for Covid-19 vaccine

By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter

Health bosses had to rethink queuing at a vaccine centre in north Kensington after people turned up early or without an appointment leading to a bottleneck.

Jan Ali who lives in Colville was invited by her GP surgery to get her first Covid jab in the first week of January at St Charles Hospital.

But she said she felt unsafe about the amount of people waiting in the corridor.

She got there ten minutes before her appointment and said her concerns prompted her to contact Russell Styles who is head of public health for Kensington and Chelsea Council, and her MP, Felicity Buchan.

She said: “There were already many patients waiting but with some of the chairs still vacant.

“By 9am more and more patients had arrived so that all the chairs were occupied and the newly arrived patients were walking up and down looking for a chair.

“Some of them were with walking sticks and looked in dire need of somewhere to sit. More able patients already sitting stood up to offer their chair but were told to sit back down.

“Someone dragged a large chair from a side room but there was nowhere to place it to ensure a safe physical distance from the nearest sitting patient.

“The clinic was late starting so a bottleneck arose from arriving patients who had to stand in the corridor.”

She suggested there was a rethink and said other residents had posted comments on local networks to express her concerns.

Mrs Ali added:  “When the clinic opened at 9.10 am those of us with 9am appointments were called to queue at the  narrow corner entrance to the vaccine room. There was no possibility of social distancing and it felt unsafe. Newly arriving patients seeing the queue, thought it was where they were supposed to go and we had to ask them to stand back.”

Councillor Nadia Nail said: “It is very worrying to hear from our most vulnerable  older residents about their experience and the concerns they have raised of the risk of Covid infection due to the overcrowding, long queuing and sitting in non ventilated space.”

The council raised residents’ concerns with the West London Borough Director of North West London CCG which is helping to run the centre.

Things went without a hitch when the first vaccines were delivered in December.

However there were problems “due to a combination of factors last week and operational difficulties” the CCG told the council.

The problems were caused when “a significant number of residents” arrived well before their appointment time and others turned up without an appointment.

They asked for a vaccination at reception, causing “a bottleneck” there.

The CCG says it has since  reviewed security and patient flow throughout the building.

Five extra security staff will now be on hand to turn away people who do not have appointments.

And people are urged to only arrive five minutes before their appointment.

The CCG  says it has also ramped up its IT and reception team.

The NHS will contact people when it is their turn for an appointment. People will be sent a letter or contacted by their GP practice.

Mr Styles said the council “has offered our support again to the CCG to ensure that the service runs without these problems as we move forward”.

A spokesperson from West London Clinical Commissioning Group said:

“We apologise to residents who have had concerns and would like to reassure them that we are reviewing our booking system and staffing to better manage these issues.

“Our staff are working hard to vaccinate as many people as quickly and safely as possible and we would also remind our residents to wait to be contacted about your vaccination appointment before attending the site.”

 


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