Vaccine queue jumping happening in Northants

Some of those 'in the know' are getting their vaccine ahead of time

By Sarah Ward

Northamptonshire residents are jumping the Covid vaccine queue as ‘those in the know’ are getting their jabs before they are eligible.

Chair of the patient group at Wellingborough’s Queensway Medical Centre, Paul Crofts, has hit out at the ‘corrupt system’ in which people who have connections, or have been told of a way to get themselves on a vaccination centre list, are being inoculated ahead of time.

Currently only those aged 45 and above should be receiving a vaccine, unless they are medically vulnerable. However some perfectly healthy residents under that age bracket are securing themselves a potentially life-saving jab by making the most of gaps in the system.

NN Journal understands some vaccination centres are operating lists where people who aren’t yet eligible are putting their name down for excess vaccines. Some are being put down on lists by connections who work within the vaccination system.

Paul Crofts says he recently became aware of an email circulating in Wellingborough telling people how to get their name on the list for the Queensway Medical Centre. He has queried the situation with the practice and after not being given a satisfactory response, is now considering his position as chair of the patient group.

He said:

“I am shocked this kind of corruption is going on and it’s reaching into the doctors surgeries. Why should people be able to jump the queue?

“I am now absolutely certain there is a complete and utter silence on this and it is working for those in the know. It seems as though it is being kept secret.

“People within the NHS are being corrupted.”

At the end of the working day, some centres have excess vaccines and people are called up to get a jab. But there does not appear to be a transparent system of who is being accepted onto the list, or how decisions are made about who gets the call.

Paul Crofts, who knows of a man in his 30s who has had the vaccine early by calling up a centre, continued: “It is not my job to devise a better system, but there needs to be one. There should be a public discussion to tackle how they use excess vaccines which is open and transparent. It is a corrupt practice. The whole principle of the NHS is that it is open and fair.”

NN Journal has spoken with a couple of residents who had their jab early after being put down on a waiting list and they said they did so because ‘they wanted to get their vaccine now, in case they ran out’.

We called a pharmacy in North Northamptonshire where we had been told a list was operating and asked to be added.

The person who picked up the phone said the vaccine service was currently closed and it did not know when the next batch of vaccines would be delivered. Asked if they had been operating a list, the person said they had been, but they were not doing it anymore as ‘we are not allowed to do it’.

NN Journal put a number of questions to the Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is coordinating the vaccine system across the county. Alongside the main vaccination centre in Moulton, both general hospitals have also been vaccinating people as well as a network of vaccination centres linked to GP practices and some pharmacies.

We asked the CCG if a policy was in place for what should be done with excess vaccines and whether residents can call to put their names down. They said ‘every effort is made to call forward patients from eligible age groups’.

Chris Pallot, Programme Director, COVID-19 vaccination said:

“To date we have administered over 460,000 doses of the vaccine to local people across Northamptonshire. Everyone in the top nine JCVI priority cohorts – those aged 50 and over, health and social care workers, unpaid carers and people at higher clinical risk – has been offered a first dose of the vaccine, and now eligibility has been extended to those aged 45 to 49 as part of the second phase of the national rollout.

“People eligible for the vaccine may be contacted by the national NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Booking Service (for the Vaccination Centre and local pharmacy-led sites) or by their local GP inviting them to come forward to be vaccinated.

“To maximise the number of vaccines administered each day and avoid wastage, every vaccination site is encouraged to call forward any eligible people at short notice, to ensure any spare vaccine can be used up at the end of each session. Every effort is made to call forward patients from eligible cohorts groups to avoid wastage of the vaccine.  It should be remembered that many cohorts cover a range of age groups (e.g. Healthcare workers) and so it is inevitable that some patients will be vaccinated in all age groups. This is managed by each vaccination location and patients should not call to enquire about short notice vaccination.

“If you are currently eligible to be vaccinated but haven’t yet received your first dose, you can book an appointment by calling 119, visiting www.nhs.uk/covidvaccination or by contacting your GP practice. If you are not yet eligible, please don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine – we will contact you when it is the right time.”

The UK was the first place in the world to vaccinate against coronavirus with the first dose given in Coventry in December last year.

Since then 33m people across the UK have received a first dose of the vaccine and 11m have had both doses. We are now in phase 2 of the inoculation programme which aims to have offered everyone over 20 a first dose by the end of July.

On Friday the government released a 28 minute video on YouTube called A beacon of Hope: The UK vaccine story.