Centre takes action after IT failure causes long queues for Covid jab

Bowthorpe Medical Practice has taken action with a number of new measures after an IT failure caused patients to queue in...

Bowthorpe Medical Practice has taken action with a number of new measures after an IT failure caused patients to queue in the cold on Friday evening. - Credit: Teresa Smith

A Norwich vaccination centre has put in place new measures after IT issues caused patients to wait up to two hours outside.

Long queues built up outside the Bowthorpe Medical Practice on Friday night after a national IT system failure resulted in staff having to revert to a paper based system.

The practice, which is a coronavirus vaccine centre, has apologised for the delays and said new measures, including a ticketing system, have been put in place as of Saturday morning.

Among those queuing on Friday night was Teresa Smith, who had taken her 76-year-old mum Norma Bagshaw for her vaccination.

The Costessey resident raised concerns around the number of elderly and vulnerable people waiting in the cold, as the line "snaked" both inside the practice and through the Bowthorpe Shopping Centre.

Due to the levels of queuing, Mrs Bagshaw had to wait more than two hours for her vaccination, spending around 90 minutes outside.

Mrs Smith said: "I was lucky I was with my mum, I had a blanket in the car and popped that around her shoulders. There were people there that were underprepared for that long wait and it was dark. It broke my heart."

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She described staff bringing out chairs for patients, adding those due to go for an appointment should take extra layers in case they faced similar delays.

She added: "We are so grateful to the NHS, they are doing a sterling job. 

"There were easily 100 people in front of my mum. 

"I'm so grateful she's had the vaccine and she said to me "I would have waited all night" I'm having this injection."

The vaccine centre also reported a large number of patients arrived very early for their appointments on Friday which delayed those for their given appointment.

To reduce waiting times, practice staff alongside members of Norfolk Fire and Rescue service are assessing patients on arrival and asking those who have turned up early to wait in their car, rather than queue. A ticketing system has also been implemented.

Patients are also asked to wrap up warm and arrive no more than five minutes before their allocated time.

A spokesperson for the OneNorwich Primary Care Network, which runs the Bowthorpe Medical Practice,  said: “Unfortunately the clinical IT system was down for over an hour on Friday evening – this was a national issue and affected all vaccination sites.  This meant we had to revert to using a paper-based system which slows down how quickly we can receive patients and get them through for their vaccination.  In addition, we had a large number of patients arriving very early for their appointments throughout the evening which meant a queue developed and delayed those trying to access the site at their given appointment time.

"Our staff did everything possible help those in the queue who needed assistance including providing chairs so people didn’t have to stand for a long time.  We are sorry that patients had to wait longer than normal, we were trying incredibly hard to manage a number of contributing factors outside of our control and see patients as quickly as possible.

 “I’d like to thank the fire service, our staff and volunteers for their continued support and willingness to work evenings and weekends so we can vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible in line with the delivery of vaccines we receive. 

"The vaccination programme will continue over several weeks and months to come - I would ask anyone booked in for a vaccination to arrive no more than five minutes before their allocated appointment time and, given the cold weather, please dress appropriately with lots of warm layers.”