Drop-in vaccination clinics are being scrapped by some of Scotland’s largest health boards in a decision described as “extraordinary and dangerous”.
NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have both indicated there will be no further drop-in clinics scheduled.
The health boards, which together serve about 1.8 million people, will instead only accept pre-booked appointments.
NHS Dumfries and Galloway has also announced there will be no drop-in clinics next week, although Scotland’s eight other mainland health boards will be continuing to offer them.
The Glasgow health board cited pressure from the coronavirus vaccine and booster programme as well as the flu shot.
A spokesman said: “Our clinics are very busy and so we are focusing on an appointments model and encouraging people to book wherever possible as this is the safest and most effective way for us to manage patient footfall and to ensure appropriate staffing is in place across our clinics.
“There are appointments available at all of our sites and these are also often available on the same day, so the vast majority of patients will not need to wait any period of time.
“We will continue to review the situation and if required we will reintroduce drop-ins again, depending on demand.”
It comes as long queues were reported at some vaccination centres in the Glasgow region, where signs on the venues stated no drop-in patients would be accepted.
A spokeswoman for NHS Lanarkshire told the BBC the health board does not have the capacity to run drop-in vaccination clinics because of increasing numbers of patients getting Covid boosters and flu jabs.
She said: “Friday October 1 will be the last day for drop-in vaccination clinics for the time being.
“As we start to deliver the Covid booster and flu vaccinations, the number of people attending our clinics is significantly increasing, therefore we do not have the capacity to also offer drop-in spaces.”
NHS Dumfries and Galloway said it is ending drop-in clinics for an unspecified period because it has seen “a markedly reduced attendance”, with 95.9% of over-18s in the region having had at least one dose of vaccine.
A spokesman added: “Drop-in clinics have been stepped down at present as a considerable amount of work takes place over the next two weeks offering vaccinations to all those in the region aged 12 to 15, while third doses are offered to those with weakened immune systems and boosters are being provided by identified order of priority to those aged over 50 – with progress now well under way in the region’s care homes.”
In her coronavirus statement to Parliament on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said vaccination “remains the single most important thing any of us can do”, with a specific plea for those aged 12 to 15 to attend vaccine drop-in clinics now they are eligible to do so.
Appointment letters for that age group have since been sent out.
Responding to the news of health boards ending drop-in clinics, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “This is extraordinary and dangerous.
“That two of Scotland’s largest health boards are unable to offer drop-in vaccinations is simply unacceptable.
“Thousands of Scots remain unvaccinated – if we are ever to get this virus under control we must act now and we need to be opening up opportunities for vaccination, not closing down clinics.
“It is down to this SNP Government to stop going at a snail’s pace and take action to ensure that health boards continue to provide vaccination clinics, particularly as the NHS is already in crisis before we even get to the pressure created by winter.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane added: “This is unbelievable. This flies in the face of the SNP saying their vaccine passport scheme would encourage uptake among younger groups.
“In two of Scotland’s largest health boards, people now cannot even drop-in to get a vaccine.
“The SNP should be making it as easy as possible for everyone to get jabbed and ramping up the rollout at every turn.
“Instead, local drop-in clinics aren’t even open and the SNP’s vaccine passport app has turned into a total shambles on the first day it is in operation.
“SNP ministers need to urgently give assurances that vaccination facilities will be readily available in these health boards as a matter of urgency. Otherwise, thousands of people will remain unvaccinated as our NHS rapidly approaches the winter period.”
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