Covid vaccine booking website is working despite complaints, says GP boss

Audrey Web getting her Covid-19 vaccination in East Bergholt.

Audrey Web getting her Covid-19 vaccination in East Bergholt. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

More than 3,000 patients have booked Covid vaccine appointments online in the first 24 hours, despite concerns raised that the website is not working. 

Some members of the over-80s cohort said the online website - which patients are directed to when confirming their vaccine appointment - is not easy to use and there are long waiting times to get help over the phone. 

The issues were investigated, however the Suffolk GP Federation said the website is fully-functioning. 

David Pannell, chief executive of the Suffolk GP Federation, said the website is working and reassured patients that they will be called if they don't manage to respond to their appointment invitation. 

He said: "On Monday we sent invitation texts to care home staff and then to the over-80s where they have a mobile number registered with their GP. 

"We have been inviting these people via text to book their appointment online and we will also be writing to people over the next few days. In these invitations there is a link to the website with a unique booking code.

"We are encouraging people to book online, but we understand that there is a variability in how confident people aged over-80 are with using the internet."

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Mr Pannell urged anyone struggling to ask a family member for help, as the texts can be forwarded onto other devices, as long as you have the phone number and post code of the person requiring the appointment.

He said the online system has worked really well and they have had more than 4,000 bookings so far - 80% of which were done online. 

The first two out of five vaccination centres run by the Suffolk GP Federation opened yesterday at Debenham Community Centre and Woodbridge Community Hall.

The EpiCentre in Haverhill and The Mix in Stowmarket opened today, and Trinity Park in Ipswich is the last to open tomorrow. All five have the potential to open 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

Across the sites in Woodbridge and Debenham, 562 people received the vaccination yesterday. 

"It is a very straight-forward system and it is working, but you have just got to be patient," said Mr Pannell, reassuring those who have struggled to use the website.

"However, I will reassure people that we have a complete list of those who need the vaccine and we are working through it. We are starting in order and contacting everyone who is eligible at this time.

"Anyone who does not respond to the invitation we will call directly over the next few weeks."

The preference is that where possible people should book online, however Mr Pannell said there is a telephone line which you can call.

He said this is usually very busy at 8am, but eases up in the afternoon. 

He said: "The constraint we have is that we don't find out until the day before that the vaccine is going to be delivered, so the timing is really difficult as we need to know how much vaccine we have in order to give out appointments. 

"Unlike other places, we are matching the appointments to the vaccine delivery, so we don't have lots of cancellations. So we won't book people in until we have confirmation of the vaccine delivery.

"But we have got to fill the clinics, as we cannot waste the vaccine when it arrives."

For more details on the online booking system and how it works, see here.