Three weeks ago I received my first vaccination for COVID-19 after receiving a text from my GP. A week later I received a letter from NHS England asking me to book my vaccination as I am a registered carer for someone vulnerable to Covid. Today I received a letter of the same ilk from the council’s carers department. Both letters mentioned that the person I care for (my husband) is vulnerable to Covid, however, M has not had his vaccination, and further to it all I have asthma which I have had from birth, and I also have a heart problem. Yes, I have had my vaccination, but only because I am a carer, and not because of my own health problems which happen to fit within the remit of the vaccination rollout.
When I went for my vaccination, one of the nurses who knows both M and me very well asked how M got on after his injection. I had to tell her that he had not had it, nor an invite. Needless to say, she was quite surprised but admitted that people were not getting invites when they should have had one. She assured me that she would speak to the surgery and get it sorted. A few days later she called and said she was having to fight with management over M and others that were missed off, but told me he was now on the list for the next set. The invite never arrived, and after getting my letter from the council I decided enough was enough.
As with anything official involving bureaucrats I knew it was going to be something that I had to fight for and was well aware that I would be sent on a wild goose chase. I called the GP surgery and after being in a queue that said I was number one, waited for 12 minutes to actually speak to someone. However, she was one of the surgeries “gatekeepers”. Unfortunately, most doctors offices in the UK have these gatekeepers who take it upon themselves to fob everyone off. I have had many arguments with these women who demand to know all the details of ailments as though they are the doctors, rather than booking the appointments as per their job description. (Before anyone decides to comment that I am wrong and they are doing their job, I have to stop you there as our surgery confirmed and published that the receptionists are not medically trained and when booking appointments you do not need to tell them about why you are booking it.). Anyway, I told the receptionist the reason for my call, she took M’s details and told me that he was not on any list and therefore would need to wait until they do 45 to 50-year-olds which will be some time. I questioned as to why there are no details on the system, and she informed me that I would need to get letters from the hospital for any appointments attended last year and send them into the surgery for them to look into it. I informed her that he had not attended the hospital last year as all appointments were cancelled due to the pandemic. she told me that if I could not do that I should call the NHS line and speak to them as it is them who decide who has their vaccination and when, but she had no records of underlying health problems. WTF!
Next stop NHS Direct. After going through 8 options I finally spoke to a lady who listened to me and tried to book the appointment. She told me that she could not as the system would not let her and that our GP surgery needs to correct their system to enable her to book it. I told her that the surgery had blamed NHS Direct’s side and said it was their records that were to blame. She assured me that their records are lead by the surgery and that they have “markers” that when the routines are run selects the people in those categories and invites them to have their jab. Feeling that I was getting another run-around I called the council’s carers line for advice. The lady was very sympathetic and told me in no certain words that M should have had his injection and that it is indeed the surgery who are to blame and that they had not coded M’s records properly, and I should call the surgery again and speak to the practice manager and refuse to give details to the receptionist as I would not get to the route of the problem.
Another call to the surgery to be told that the practice manager was in a meeting and she (a different gatekeeper this time) would try to get him to call me back. When I put the phone down I thought that I would not get a call and my request would be binned. However, I was duly surprised to get a call from the practice manager just 20 minutes later. So, on with my explanation to him, repeating everything I had said to all the others and telling of what I had been told by his reception to do, what NHS Direct said and finally what the council carers department told me. He looked into M’s records whilst I was on the phone and could see that something was wrong and he would speak to our new GP and get it all corrected. I told him what the nurse had told me and he said that she was one of the best members of staff and that she knew the patients very well and if she thought M should have been seen, then he needed to act on that too. I mentioned to him that our old GP who left the surgery was very rude about M getting a flu jab stating that those were only for people with cancer. When she said this to M I quickly corrected her and she finally backed down, however, M still had never received an invite for that either. He apologised that this too was missed off and admitted that M should also have been given the flu jab too each year especially in light of him being hospitalised with pneumonia, again, not recorded by the GP in question. I told him that the pharmacist next to the surgery had given M his jab each year and said that M was in the vulnerable group and that the surgery should have sorted this out. Again he apologised for all the mistakes and lack of professional conduct from our previous GP (who left in mysterious circumstances to a new life in Scotland) and promised to get everything corrected and went ahead with booking M in for his Covid vaccination.
Although I have condensed everything, the calls to all involved took me over an hour and a half. It is a sad state of affairs that we have had to fight for everything just because people cannot or do not do their jobs correctly.