Lewes councillors have called on health bosses to make sure vulnerable residents can access covid vaccinations in their own communities.
East Sussex County councillor Carolyn Lambert has called on the Sussex Resilience Forum and local NHS providers to work with the community to find local vaccination centres in Seaford.
She said many residents in her Seaford South ward had raised concerns about their ability to access vaccinations under the current setup, as many had been told they would need to travel to Eastbourne, Hailsham or Lewes.
Similar concerns have been raised by councillors in Newhaven and Peacehaven, with patients in both towns told they would receive vaccinations at Brighton Racecourse.
Cllr Lambert said:
“Understandably, people are concerned about the infection risk of being asked to travel in lockdown.
“In addition, many of our older residents are classified as vulnerable and it simply isn’t appropriate for them to have to travel.
"Not everyone has access to a car or can afford the taxi fare.
“The government has had months to prepare for this vaccination programme and it is simply unacceptable that vulnerable people, who are already anxious, are being asked to travel like this and in many cases, are having to wait outside in unsheltered conditions.
“Yet again, it seems that the needs of Seaford residents are being ignored in favour of Lewes, even though Seaford is the biggest town in the district.”
Cllr Lambert’s comments saw some pushback from the Covid-19 vaccination programme, however.
A spokesman for the programme said:
“Thanks to an extraordinary effort by the NHS, the COVID-19 vaccination programme is up and running for the people of Seaford, meaning everyone over the age of 80 living in the area will begin to receive a vaccination in a phased way.
“A GP-led vaccination service has already started providing vaccinations for people over the age of 80 registered with the two GP practices in Seaford.
"GP surgeries are working together in groups to ensure that registered patients can receive their vaccine locally, while also maintaining usual services for patients.
“The way in which the vaccination programme is being rolled-out has been agreed nationally and the wider Lewes district will have three GP-led vaccination services sites meaning the vaccination can be given to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
“The location of the GP-led vaccination service does not affect the speed by which people living in Seaford will receive their vaccination.
"The timing for when people will be able to get their vaccination depends largely on the availability of the vaccine and the priority group they are in.
“However, we recognise some people will have to travel further than others to get their vaccination depending on where they live in the local area and we are looking at how they can be supported to get their vaccination in the safest possible way.
“People will be contacted when it is their turn to get the vaccination.
"They do not need to contact their GP or another NHS service.”
Under the current arrangements, patients registered in Seaford would receive their vaccinations at the Hampden Park Health Centre in Eastbourne. Patients registered at Foundry Healthcare Lewes would receive their vaccination at the town’s River Lodge Surgery.
Peacehaven and Newhaven residents, meanwhile, would need to travel to a vaccination centre at Brighton Racecourse, which is to begin operating this week.
However, this arrangement has also come in for criticism from a number of local councillors, who say the centre would be too difficult to access for the most vulnerable residents, particularly those without access to a car.
Among those to raise criticism was Paula Woolven, an independent Newhaven town councillor who is also the chair of trustees of the community transport group Havens Community Cars.
Cllr Woolven said:
“I emailed the CCG before Christmas, anticipating the need for transport for the first wave of people to be listed for the vaccination.
“As these were people in the oldest age bracket, it stands to reason that lack of mobility and transportation would be a big issue and I could not understand why community transport operators were not being contacted to ‘join the dots’ to ensure the highest take up of this vaccination roll-out.
“Despite being assured that someone would be in touch in due course, the mass centre for the Havens has been opened today with no further contact to us regarding transport for the most vulnerable and isolated residents.
“We are trying to reach as many people as possible ourselves, telling them about our support, but most of those being called will not be on social media or the internet. It’s a very disappointing lack of joined-up thinking.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service approached the CCG in connection with Cllr Woolven’s comments but did not receive a reply prior to publication.