Queuing for flu jabs

Joseph Bulmer

NEVER has the flu jab seemed more popular than it was in Barnstaple last week.

Patients literally queued up the street for their jabs at the Litchdon Street Medical Centre – and surrounding roads in the Newport area became clogged with traffic, too.

It seems that a slip-up on letters sent out to patients led to hundreds of people turning up at the same time last Wednesday instead of being staggered throughout the day.

Dr Mark Sandford-Wood, executive partner at the medical centre, told the Gazette that they had a target group of around 4,000 patients for their flu jab mail drop. This made it impossible to do themselves, so it had been contracted out.

They would normally expect 2,500-2,700 of these people to attend, he said.

Patients had been divided into three groups on three successive Wednesdays. Those attending on the first of these were split into half-hour batches throughout the day, he said. Unfortunately, this data had not been activated by the contractors in the letters and everyone had turned up between 1pm and 1.30pm.

“It brought Newport to a standstill for about one-and-a-half hours. This was extremely unfortunate and we apologise to our patients, although it was out of our control,” said Dr Sandford-Wood.

“If anyone was put off by the queues, we would ask them to please come again. We have done all we can to see it does not happen again. We are as sure as we can be that the correct data has been used for the next two weeks.”

These clinics are being held today (Wednesday) and on November 3.

Other medical centres and surgeries through the region are also starting their annual vaccination programmes.

It is estimated that nationwide around 15 million people in the UK will have the vaccinations, which are altered annually to match the flu strains in circulation.

Those being encouraged to do so include everyone aged 65 and over and those with long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis and serious kidney or liver disease. This year, for the first time, all pregnant women are also being offered the vaccination.