GPs in Helensburgh are only getting 24 hours’ notice of whether they’ll have enough Covid vaccine supplies for upcoming vaccination sessions, MSPs have been told.

Concerns over the supply of vaccinations to GPs at Helensburgh Medical Centre were laid before the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 committee on Thursday.

And in response, Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, said he would take up the case – and admitted that it “should be faster than 24 hours”.

Conservative MSP Maurice Corry, who lives in the town, raised the issue - and branded the situation “hopeless”.

Mr Corry said: “I met my local GP surgery and they expressed extreme concerns that the supply of vaccines to GPs is very poor.

“When they [Helensburgh GPs] plan for a session of vaccinations to go out, say at the weekend, say a Saturday, and they book the hall and everything else, they don’t know until the Friday if they’re actually going to have stock of vaccine.

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“Now this is not good enough. I’m due to have mine on Sunday, so I hope there’s vaccine there.

“It seems to be hopeless at the moment, and they’re very frustrated.”

Cabinet secretary Michael Russell took issue with Mr Corry’s use of the word “hopeless”, stating that more than 600,000 people had been vaccinated across Scotland to date, and said that supply of the vaccines was “a constraining issue” at a UK level, not just in Scotland.

Mr Corry replied: “This has not just happened once or twice. This has come from GPs and their managers trying to get supplies.

“They just cannot rely on it. Like it or not, that’s the situation, and hence I’m saying it needs to be sorted.”

Professor Leitch replied: “I would of course help that practice offline if we possibly can. There are supply challenges, so I don’t think this is bad people just not telling them what they haven’t got.

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“The vaccine is hard to transport, particularly if it’s Pfizer, and supply is not always reliable. It’s lumpy.

“Highland health board are doing it principally through GP practices. There is a vaccine co-ordinator at NHS Highland and that vaccine co-ordinator will be happy to speak to that practice. I’m sure they’ve done that.

“It’s a big logistical challenge, but we should be giving them more notice than the day before – you’re absolutely right, and we would hope to be able to correct that.”

Mr Corry said the Helensburgh vaccine was the Oxford AstraZeneca version, which doesn’t require the same level of specialist storage facilities as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and insisted that “there should be no reason for delay”.

Professor Leitch acknowledged that was the case, but said there could still be reasons for delays in supplies coming to Helensburgh.

“The question there,” he said, “is how many [doses] does [NHS] Highland know it’s got, when does it know it’s got them, and then when can it tell Helensburgh.

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“I think that should be faster than 24 hours.”

Mr Corry replied: “The GP said to me yesterday that we know there are 500,000 vials of vaccine in store somewhere. Surely there should be no reason for any delay at all?”

Professor Leitch replied: “I don’t know how the GP knows that. I don’t know there are 500,000 [vials] stored in a warehouse somewhere. I don’t think that’s true.

“There are a series of steps in the process. Some are at the manufacturer, some are with the UK-wide distribution centre, and some are in health board distribution centres.

“There is of course stock in order for us to supply to the people who are getting their letters in the next little while.

“But I accept your point that we should try to resolve it for that specific practice.”

A spokesperson for Helensburgh Medical Centre said they were unable to comment on the issue of vaccine supply.

NHS Highland have been contacted for comment.

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