Apology over vaccine queues

Forest Road Medical Centre
Forest Road Medical Centre in Walthamstow

Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

Waltham Forest NHS has publicly apologised after reports of overcrowding at two of the borough’s vaccination centres.

Elderly residents receiving their first dose raised concerns about long queues in bad weather and groups waiting in unventilated rooms at Oliver Road Medical Centre in Leyton and Forest Road Medical Centre in Walthamstow.

On Monday this week, the chair of Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group, responsible for primary care in the borough, explained the sites “were offered extra vaccines which [they] were not anticipating” and were rushing to use them before they expired.

In a letter to residents published on the CCG website, Ken Aswani said: “Rather than refuse them, we agreed to take delivery and use them in the three days we have before they become unusable. This required contacting patients at short notice, and a doubling of staffing within hours.

“We acknowledge our shortcomings. Long queues formed outside in poor weather, and while we opened up more space in the building to try and bring people in out of the weather, this caused its own issues. 

“The service provided was not up to the standard we seek to provide and which residents should rightly expect.

“This has caused huge pressure on staff trying to do their best in very difficult circumstances and has concerned and seriously inconvenienced a large number of our older residents – for which we apologise profusely.

“We are working hard to remedy the issues in case we are again faced with similar circumstances and actively looking at whether other sites would be preferable. 

“We are working with a range of partners including Waltham Forest Council and voluntary organisations to make improvements wherever we can. 

“We are also talking to pharmacies to launch a number of very local sites, and with national teams to open up more large-scale vaccination centres.”

Residents are advised to arrive “just slightly” before their appointment time rather than too early and will not be turned away if late. They should also wear a mask and social distance as much as possible while queuing. 

Anyone who has not yet been contacted about the vaccine is asked to wait patiently and not to reach out to their GP.