'We should be moving Heaven and Earth': Frustration over 'wasted opportunity' for vaccination slots

Unfilled vaccination appointment slots are a “wasted opportunity” to make the population safer according to a council leader who has offered the authority’s help in running the system.

A council leader has said his authority is happy to run a booking system for Covid vaccine appointments
A council leader has said his authority is happy to run a booking system for Covid vaccine appointments

Last week, Telford & Wrekin Council leader, Councillor Shaun Davies said Telford’s International Centre administered about 100 jabs on Tuesday, February 10, despite currently having capacity for 15 times that.

He said he had been contacted by volunteers and doctors who had been sent home early because “problems with the national booking system” left them without patients.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting today he said the government’s centralised approach was causing “unnecessary delays”, and volunteered council resources to make phone calls sent letters, saying this would be more efficient.

Cllr Davies said the borough’s Covid-19 vaccination rates had “got off to a slow start” but are now about the regional and national averages.

He thanked the NHS, council volunteers and staff and the community for their work.

“But we can’t rest on our laurels,” he said.

“There have been lots of stories over the last seven days of thousands of appointments at Telford International Centre not being filled.

“The vaccine is at TIC, as it is at various other centres across Telford and Wrekin.

“There are around 1,500 spaces available each day at the TIC but people aren’t being called through because the letters haven’t landed on their doorsteps, and we do need a pragmatic approach by the government on this.

“Where there is availability we shouldn’t be turning people away from getting their vaccine, if they are eligible, simply because they haven’t got a letter.

“I know, from speaking to various people, that literally thousands of appointments are being wasted. Now, that doesn’t mean to say the vaccine is being wasted because the vaccine that is being used has a longer shelf-life, but it is an opportunity lost.

Speed

“It’s an opportunity for that vaccine to be in the arms and bodies of those people to offer protection, so we should be moving Heaven and Earth to make sure we speed ahead.

“I do think the government need to allow local decision making so we can make maximum use of the vaccines we have available to us and the capacity.

“We all know the TIC has a capacity of 10,000 jabs a day, so it’s only operating at a fraction of its capacity anyway and even that isn’t being delivered at the moment, so we do need to press on.

“I’m raising this, as are cabinet members and officers, with the NHS and government daily, but we will not sit back in public and not open our mouths on this because this is something residents of Telford and Wrekin expect to be going like clockwork, and that’s what we want to do.

“This isn’t just a moan; if the NHS or government want us to work to expedite this, to operate the national call system on a local basis, we’re more than happy to do that.

“If they want us to send the letters out, because it’s quicker and not dependent on national timescales, then we’ll do that too. If they want us to ring people who are eligible to get the vaccine, we’ll do that too.

“I do think there has been a Whitehall top-down approach to this which is, on the whole, working in local areas, but there are unnecessary delays in the system. We all want to get this vaccine into people’s arms so we can return to a more normal way of living.

“That offer I have made in private and today, by this statement, I make it in public to the government and the NHS locally.”

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