Health minister Matt Hancock has promised to ‘look into’ confusion around the booking systems for Covid jabs after a Labour MP highlighted the issue in parliament yesterday (2 February). 

In a House of Commons debate on Covid-19, Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton, said pharmacy-led Covid vaccine sites in England were ‘struggling to navigate the confusion caused by the two online booking systems’.

‘They [pharmacy-led sites] are seeing patients being sent to centres much further away, rather than staying local, and patients aged over 70 who cannot get an appointment as the national booking system is not updated in line with the Government guidance,’ he added.

His comments follow reports from London pharmacies who also raised concerns about the booking system for vaccinations, after  receiving just a quarter of the daily vaccine bookings they were told to expect.

Matt Hancock told Mr Kahn that he would ‘of course look into’ the issue faced by pharmacy teams and would discuss the matter with the minister for vaccine deployment, Nadhim Zahawi.

'Two different routes'

Some pharmacy-led sites told the Pharmacist last week that they have seen only 50 patients coming through their doors daily – rather than the expected 200 - and raised concerns that their elderly patients are struggling to book an appointment via the national booking system.

One pharmacist also said he believed his patients were missing out on their vaccine as they do not understand they can book via the national booking system, instead of visiting their GP-led site.

Matt Hancock said in the Commons: ‘There are two different routes through which people can get a jab: the mass vaccination centres or GPs. People are often invited to both, and that is okay. They can take one or the other, whichever is most convenient.’

He added that if patients want to wait for an invitation closer to home – rather than going to a vaccination centre that is a ‘bit of a distance away’ – then they can do so because ‘that closer invitation from the local GPs will come’.

‘A lot of people appreciate the opportunity essentially to go as soon as possible, which is why we have two different routes,’ he said.

He added: ‘I understand the importance of making that clear to everybody and ensuring that they are as deconflicted as possible. I hope that we can make sure that this process goes as smoothly as possible, and that [Nadhim Zahawi] can make that work.’