South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon reveals NHS plans for vaccine centres in Diss, Harleston, and Eye
The MP for South Norfolk has accused the NHS of “spreading fear” by refusing to tell people about plans for additional vaccine centres in Diss, Harleston and Eye.
While NHS England has remained tight-lipped about when and where new vaccine centres in the area will open, Richard Bacon revealed there are plans in place for centres at Harleston Medical Practice, Morrisons car park in Diss and another undisclosed location in Eye, within the coming weeks.
Mr Bacon said he was left with little choice but to reveal the confidential plans – which he had learned through private meetings with top NHS officials – as residents in Diss were being left “sick with worry” at the prospect of having to make the 40-mile round trip to Poringland for a jab.
In an exclusive interview with the Diss Express, the 58-year-old said: “I’m very disappointed that, at the same time as clinicians are doing a truly brilliant job, NHS administrators have spread fear quite unnecessarily by refusing to tell people more about plans for extra vaccine centres in our area.
“Two of the existing centres are so close to Norwich that, on a map, south Norfolk still appears to be a vaccine centre black hole. This is not actually the case.
“There are advanced plans for vaccine centres at Paddock Road surgery in Harleston, and also in Diss, almost certainly at Morrisons car park, as well as just over the border in Eye.
“But local people don’t know this, because the NHS won’t tell them – which is why I am now doing so.
“You cannot leave people in the dark for weeks on end. Some of the old and vulnerable have been sick with worry, thinking, quite wrongly, that they would have to make a 40-mile round trip on public transport to Poringland.”
On Wednesday a vaccination centre was opened at Connaught Hall, in Station Road, Attleborough, meaning residents in Diss would only need to travel 20 miles to get their jab. For many people, however, this was still a bridge too far.
Mr Bacon added that he had been urging the NHS for weeks to be more transparent about its plans, but said a top-down management structure had made this impossible.
“For several weeks, I have been asking the NHS to be much more open about its plans, but they are quite unable to do anything without instructions from on high,” he said.
“Diss is the biggest settlement in my constituency. It doesn’t need a degree in geography to work out that if you don’t announce plans for vaccine centres in the south, people will be very concerned.
“Nor does it need a psychology degree to realise that if people are told they will be able to get a jab much more locally, they will feel reassured – even if they have to exercise patience for a little longer.”
Despite his criticism of the health service’s communication, Mr Bacon, who will have represented South Norfolk for 20 years in June, praised the efficiency of the roll-out so far.
He said: “The true story is that, in Norfolk and Waveney, progress in vaccinations is going very well.
“The latest published figures show that 16.3 per cent of the entire population over 16 years of age, or one in six people, have now been vaccinated.
“And, because of the unavoidable time lag in producing verified figures, the actual coverage today is now well over one in five people – this is truly excellent progress.
“The work of GPs and other clinical staff has been outstanding.”
Earlier this week, prior to Mr Bacon’s revelation, the NHS announced the opening of the new vaccination centre in Attleborough, alongside two more in Kings Lynn and North Walsham, and promised more would follow, but chose not to reveal where these would be.
On Monday, Dr David Vickers, medical director at Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, said: “We are delighted to be launching large vaccination centres in Kings Lynn, Attleborough, and North Walsham.
“The centres are capable of delivering thousands of vaccines in the coming weeks and provide a major boost to our plans to offer protection to those who would benefit most as quickly as possible.”