The NHS has failed to meet its own deadline to offer third coronavirus vaccine doses to vulnerable groups, as it emerged over half of blood cancer patients are yet to be offered the jab.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised people who are immunocompromised should be offered a third jab, because their weakened immune systems make them less likely to be protected from the first two doses.
After the plan was approved by the Government in September, NHS England told GPs and hospital teams to contact eligible patients by October 11 and offer a third vaccine.
But more than half of blood cancer patients (56.6 per cent) are yet to be offered the extra vaccination, according to a Blood Cancer UK survey.
Patients plead with doctors for third jab
Around 3,000 people participated in the survey, which could indicate around 200,000 of the half a million immunocompromised people in the UK are yet to receive the offer.
The charity said 80 per cent of calls to its helpline in recent weeks are from people struggling to access the jab.
Patients have resorted to turning up at mass vaccination centres without an appointment and pleading with staff to give them the jab.
Others said their GP practices did not know about the third dose rollout and some doctors and hospital teams wanted to provide the jab, but did not know how to record it on the system.
The charity said the delay to the third dose rollout could result in the hospitalisation or death of blood cancer patients.
NHS to 'ensure no one is missed'
Gemma Peters, Chief Executive for Blood Cancer UK, said: “It is now clear that the rollout of the third doses for the immunocompromised has been a failure that was poorly planned and badly implemented.
“People with blood cancer are seeing the third dose as something that could be the difference between life and death, and so the failure to deliver the rollout has caused them huge distress and anxiety.”
NHS England wrote to hospitals and primary care teams on September 30 asking them to identify eligible patients and offer them the jab.
It will now write to these patients directly to ensure they are offered the dose and “ensure no one is missed”, a spokesperson said.