Concern grows over lack of vaccine centres in south Norfolk and Waveney
- Credit: David Bramhall/Diss Corn Hall/Archant
A lack of vaccine centres in south Norfolk and Waveney has prompted worries among elderly patients - some of whom will have to drive 45 minutes each way for a jab.
Tens of thousands of people in Norfolk and Suffolk are based more than 20 miles from a vaccination hub, despite more venues being revealed last week.
That includes people in the south Norfolk town of Diss, who live 22 miles from their allocated hub in Poringland - a 40-minute drive away.
Surgeries in Diss, Poringland, Harleston, Long Stratton, Attleborough, Loddon and Pulham Market are part of a single primary care network.
But Poringland, geographically at one end of the district, was chosen as the network's primary care hub.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people in the south Waveney towns of Beccles and Bungay are having to make lengthy journeys to Kirkley Mill in Lowestoft.
Others are being sent to Southwold's Sole Bay Health Centre or the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.
On Monday, the government said almost everybody in England would live within 10 miles of a vaccination facility by the end of January.
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But with the location of further centres yet to be revealed, David Bramhall, from Harleston, said concerns surrounding elderly members of the community remained.
"It is too great a distance for a lot of people," said the 78-year-old. "I still drive but many here don't.
"I'm more concerned about others, including my mother-in-law who is 96.
"My feeling about it is that a lot of the complaints aimed at the government are not very fair. None of us would have done any better and they can only do what the experts advise.
"However, in this particular case, more information from the local set-up would be much appreciated by a lot of people."
David Jacox, 81, who lives in Diss, said: "I am fortunate to have a car, but I live in a street of 18 houses and only three or four of us drive.
"If you've got a morning appointment in Poringland there's no way you could make it from here on the bus. In the afternoon it would be a challenge to make the bus coming back.
"The logistics are pretty hard and of course we are all being told to avoid public transport."
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi pledged on Monday that patients would not have to travel more than 10 miles for a vaccine once more centres had opened.
That claim was backed up later in the day as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) unveiled its 'Vaccines Delivery Plan'.
The plan adds that a small number of rural areas will be served via mobile teams.
But some, including Lee Johnson, operations manager at Diss Corn Hall, claim they can plug the gaps if their offer of help is acted upon.
"We have this huge building sitting closed, so let's use it," said Mr Johnson.
"The Corn Hall is strategically placed, with good parking, a one-way system already in place, and it could be open from dawn til dusk.
"It's a big space so we could have multiple people being vaccinated at once."
While Waveney will get another local site in Lowestoft next month, residents in the Beccles and Bungay area remain in the dark as to whether any centres will be established closer to home.
Mr Aldous, MP for Waveney, said he had already raised the issue with health bosses.
"The roll-out of the vaccine is one of the largest initiatives in the NHS’ history and they’ve worked incredibly hard in setting up these centres," he said.
"However there is a concern that some people in the rural south Waveney area, particularly the elderly, could have difficulty in getting to a centre.
"I’ve asked the NHS to look at providing another to serve people in this area."
Pressed on a lack of centres in south Norfolk and Waveney, a spokesman for Norfolk and Waveney CCG said: "We currently have 11 GP-led sites, with more opening in community and GP settings over the coming weeks, as well as large vaccination centres.
"If you have any difficulties in getting to your appointment, please discuss this with your GP or hospital when you are contacted."