Family of 93-year-old woman who caught coronavirus at Ripon Community Hospital criticise NHS for failing to vaccinate her

The family of a 93-year-old woman who has tested positive for coronavirus while an inpatient in a North Yorkshire hospital have criticised the NHS for not vaccinating her against the disease since she was first admitted six weeks ago.
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The woman, from Knaresborough, was admitted to Harrogate District Hospital for non-coronavirus related reasons on January 4, and was later moved to Ripon Community Hospital for rehabilitation, where she tested positive for the disease earlier this week.

Her nephew, John Hardy, who is next-of-kin, said he has spend the past six weeks pleading with staff at the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust for his aunt to receive the first dose of the vaccine, but told it was not possible because of the logistical difficulties involved in getting her a second dose of the Pfizer injection twelve weeks later, even though other patients and staff at Harrogate District Hospital were receiving their vaccinations.

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The patient was moved to the GP-led Ripon Community Hospital on January 25 for rehabilitation where she remained unvaccinated, despite being in the second highest government priority group for vaccination and there being no medical reason she could not receive a dose according to her family.

The 93-year-old woman, who is now recovering from covid, was admitted to Harrogate Hospital as an inpatient on January 4The 93-year-old woman, who is now recovering from covid, was admitted to Harrogate Hospital as an inpatient on January 4
The 93-year-old woman, who is now recovering from covid, was admitted to Harrogate Hospital as an inpatient on January 4

The woman tested positive for the virus earlier this week along with numerous other patients on the 16-bed Trinity Ward, the only inpatient ward at the hospital.

The patients have all been moved to Harrogate District Hospital and the ward was closed yesterday for deep cleaning.

The woman is now making a good recovery after receiving oxygen therapy.

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The NHS Trust said the woman was not able to receive a vaccine at Ripon because they only had stock of the Pfizer dose, which they could not transport to the hospital safely from the Harrogate site.

But it did not address why she had not been offered the dose while she was an inpatient at Harrogate.

Steve Russell, Chief Executive at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are sorry that the patient has been unable to access her Covid vaccine while an inpatient at Ripon Community Hospital.

“Up until now, the Trust have only been allocated the Pfizer Covid vaccine which, due to its delicate nature, is not suitable for transfer to other peripheral sites such as Ripon Community Hospital.

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“We appreciate that there has been a delay in the patient initially being able to access the vaccine, and now a further delay due to her testing positive for Covid-19. We will facilitate the patient receiving her Covid-19 vaccine at a time which is safe to do so.”

The Trust said it has now received stock of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which it can distribute among its sites, amid concerns that other inpatients may have missed out on being vaccinated.

Mr Hardy, 73, from Huddersfield, said he had pressed staff at both hospitals every day for his aunt to be vaccinated but was repeatedly told it wasn’t possible, even though she had been invited by own GP for an injection.

He said: “We were told my aunt couldn’t have a vaccine in hospital because the service was GP-led. There was a letter at her house from her GP inviting her for a vaccination, but at Ripon we absolutely ran into a stone wall. There’s no doubt she is eligible.

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“You can’t write everything into a policy. My aunt was in Ripon as a staging post for physio to get her back home, and if she had been at home, she would have been vaccinated.

“I feel as if I’ve let my aunt down. At the end of the day, no matter how hard we tried, we failed.

“I can understand the worries about getting my aunt a second dose. But I would have thought it would be logistically possible.

“It’s who they chose to give it to which is flawed. I think they’ve missed this population.

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“If they had offered us the Pfizer vaccine we would have said ‘give it to her, we will find a mechanism to get her back for her next dose.’”

The Trust confirmed to the Yorkshire Post that some inpatients at Harrogate Hospital were given a dose of the Pfizer injection where appropriate when its vaccination hub opened on January 4, and that decisions were taken based on who had been in hospital the longest.

Ashley Green, chief executive of Healthwatch North Yorkshire said: “We are sorry to hear that the patient did not receive her vaccination whilst in hospital, and that she has recently tested positive for COVID-19.”

“We are aware that Harrogate & District NHS Foundation Trust have been exceptionally busy over the last few months, with COVID-19 patients, and have been working extremely hard to manage this.

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“We would encourage all healthcare providers to communicate with patients about when they will receive their vaccine – and if not, why not.

“Whilst the national vaccination programme has been proceeding at great pace and large numbers of people have already been vaccinated, there are many more people that still require their first dose.

“We have heard many positive stories from people across the county who have been treated for COVID-19 and who have received their vaccination, but we are aware, that there are a small minority of people, like the patient, who’s experiences have not always been positive.”