A DARLINGTON man who has been shielding for the past ten months was left in "disbelief" after being told to travel out the area for his Covid vaccine – because there were "no jabs" in the town.

The 78-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed to receive his first dose at a pharmacy hub on Teesside after the NHS 119 service said there were none available in the town.

His daughter Liz Robinson has raised concerns that elderly and vulnerable residents are needlessly travelling out of their local area because of "confusing" messages. 

The Darlington Primary Care Network has since confirmed the national NHS booking system does not offer appointments at local vaccination sites - but that the PCN is in the process of contacting all over 75s to have their vaccine administered in the town.

'The furthest he has been is in his back garden'

But speaking to The Northern Echo, Ms Robinson said her father had followed the instructions on the letter calling 119, only to be told that he would have to travel to either Newcastle or Stockton.

She said: "He had initially turned down the 119 offer to go to the hub in Stockton because he had been shielding since March – the furthest he has been is in his back garden.

"He had turned it down because he had no transport and the thought of taking two, or three bus rides to the pharmacy was just impossible, especially when he is meant to shield."

Ms Robinson, who said her father had been left "angry and in disbelief" at the offer, claimed they had not been made aware of any alternative options – including the Feethams House vaccination site, when seeking answers from NHS 119 on a number of occasions over three days.

She said: "When I found out he had turned it down, I told him to take the next appointment in Stockton on Tuesday and I said I would take him through – he normally sorts his own business, he doesn't ever ask me for help.

"He was told there's no jabs in Darlington for him – what else could he do?

"He got a letter and he rang the 119 number on this letter and they said there was no jabs in Darlington and the nearest one was Stockton.

"We now have to go back to Stockton for the second dose, which isn't really suitable as he's supposed to shield.

"There must a lot of other people out there, who are likely to be facing the same thing and travelling out of the area, when they don't need to."

'We are in the process of contacting all 75 to 80 year olds'

In response, Dr Amanda Riley, Clinical Director, Darlington Primary Care Network and Chief Executive Officer, Primary Healthcare Darlington said it is in the process of contacting all 75 to 80 year olds to have their vaccine in the town.

She said: “The Primary Care Network in Darlington is currently contacting all 75-80 year olds who have a mobile phone registered with a GP practice by text message, inviting them to book an appointment for their Covid-19 vaccination. 

“We are still in the process of telephoning all over 80 year olds but will shortly be moving to invite the 75 to 80 year old priority group by phone call or letter.  

“Letters sent by the national booking system currently only offer vaccinations at mass vaccination or pharmacy sites, none of which are yet available in Darlington.

"Unfortunately local vaccination services are also not available on the national booking system.

“Patients are able to choose if they would prefer to attend a mass vaccination or pharmacy site when invited, or they can wait to be contacted by their local GP services for a vaccination at a local site.

"Second doses of the vaccine will always be given by the provider of the first dose.”

'Everyone in Darlington is able to get their vaccine in Darlington'

Conservative MP for Darlington Peter Gibson said: “The doctors surgeries in Darlington through the Primary Care Network are doing an amazing job of rolling out the vaccine, having opened up to the over 75’s just last Friday.

“Everyone will be able to access a vaccine in Darlington, when their cohort is eligible. The can do book their appointment via www.darlington.nhsvaccinations.co.uk.

“The national hubs and pharmacy roll out from NHS England gives people the choice and option of travelling to other locations for the jab.

“However everyone in Darlington is able to get their vaccine in Darlington.”

A spokesperson for NHS North East and Yorkshire said its letters make it clear to prospective patients that they have a choice of locations, and that patients can choose to wait until their local GP services contact them when it is their turn for the vaccine.