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NHS moves to prevent repeat of vaccine blunder

NEW equipment and procedures are to be installed by NHS Shetland as part of a wider management shake-up in response to a vaccine storage failure that led to many patients being re-vaccinated.

Data loggers for fridge temperatures and dedicated “responsible officers” are being introduced throughout the isles to prevent recurrence of the incident in Lerwick Health Centre where fridge temperatures rose above the norm, rendering vaccines given to 272 patients potentially ineffective.

According to NHS Shetland 64 per cent of those patients have been re-vaccinated, while eight per cent have declined or deferred a decision. Another 14 per cent have left Shetland or no longer require vaccination and the remaining 13 per cent are being “followed up”.

The vaccine problem emerged during a routine check 19 February and NHS Shetland said at the time that while the vaccines would not be harmful, they may not provide the level of immunity required to protect from infection in the long term.

The 171 children and teenagers and 91 adults affected were contacted by letter asking them to consider re-vaccination. Apologies were also issued by the health board.

NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts yesterday (Tuesday) again apologised for the inconvenience caused to individuals following a health board committee.

He said the welfare of patients remained the board’s highest priority and he was sorry that there had been any concern raised for patients and their families.

He also emphasised that immunisation plays a key role in ensuring long term protection for individuals against infection and he encouraged anyone who was still to undergo revaccination to seriously consider this.

Roberts added that the clinical care and professional governance committee had discussed the incident, the remedial actions that had been taken and the lessons learnt.

The committee “had been assured that appropriate measures were in place to prevent a recurrence and were complimentary about the professional way in which the incident had been handled and the work that has been done to learn lessons and put in place corrective action”.

It also thanked staff across Shetland who had responded willingly to help provide the revaccination clinics for the public.

A two-phase review of practice has led to a single management structure for practice nursing staff across all eight of the NHS Shetland board run practices.

A professional leadership structure for practice nursing across Shetland is also being introduced, led by a general practice nurse at advanced practice level.

Nurses within the two independent general practices at Hillswick and Levenwick are also invited to the professional nursing structure to “support the sharing of knowledge and best practice across the service”.

A new policy for recording fridge temperatures, to ensure that the “cold chain” is maintained for all vaccines is being introduced. Staff are being trained to record temperatures with audits carried out.

Chief community nurse Edna Mary Watson said the dedicated revaccination clinics would be ending shortly.

This meant that anyone who had been undecided about revaccination and wished to now proceed should contact the Lerwick Health Centre on the appointment line of 01595 743216.