Change in vaccination process could see rural patients missing out

As reported by the BBC, a new way of giving out vaccinations in the Highlands runs the risk of seeing those in rural areas miss out

In an effort to reduce GP workloads, MMR and flu injections are to become the responsibility of health board clinics – something that is causing concern for those living in rural Scotland.

Highland doctors are worried that the most rural-based patients won’t be able to attend these clinics and could, therefore, miss out on vital vaccinations that are traditionally given out by GPs.

The Vaccine Transformation Programme is in the early stages of being implemented in the Highlands, and NHS Highland has stated that it will ensure it doesn’t do anything to cause risk to the population.

Dr Philip Wilson, a GP and professor of rural healthcare, has opposed this change.

“There is a particular issue about remote communities getting occasional visits,” he said.

“There are no powers for GPs picking up people opportunistically and increasing immunisation rates.

“There will be an immunisation clinic shared between several different practices, and the consequence of that is that even when patients want to have their immunisation and are able to turn up for the appointments they might have to travel huge distances to get there.

“That, in turn, is going to remove the incentive or make it more difficult for people to actually get immunisations.

“It makes sense to carry on paying GPs to provide immunisations in rural areas.”

NHS Highland said it was not yet clear what changes, if any, would be proposed in rural areas of the Highlands.

A spokesperson said: “Some areas in Scotland are further ahead with the changes such as Tayside and Lanarkshire and we are learning the lessons from that work.

“Any changes made in NHS Highland will be piloted first on a small scale before being rolled out.

“Childhood vaccine uptake in Highland, including for measles mumps and rubella (MMR) is over 95%, and the population is well protected. Measles is a very rare infection in Scotland.

“We work and will continue to work with Highland GPs and the Highland Local Medical Committee to explore how best to deliver vaccinations.”

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