A HEALTH board has blamed an "unprecedented" calls response after elderly patients were cut off and left unable to book flu vaccination appointments.

Alex Rowley, Labour MSP for Fife, said he had taken a high number of calls from older people who were unable to get through to call handlers and voiced criticism that the board was not better prepared for an anticipated high response.

NHS Fife apologised to patients who were unable to book appointments today as both the UK and Scottish governments announced tougher lockdown restrictions.

The health board acknowledged that 'planning had not been sufficient' and said steps were being taken to rectify issues with the booking system.

The board said there is no shortage of appointments available but advised the public to hold off calling if they cannot get through immediately in the next few days and try again next week.

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Vaccination clinics are planned to take place in almost 90 community venues across Fife in the coming weeks in common with other health board areas across Scotland.

NHS Fife Chief Executive, Carol Potter said: “We have seen an unprecedented response from those looking to arrange their annual flu jab over the last few days.

"While this is encouraging, we are aware that many people have experienced difficulties getting through to the dedicated phone line.

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"We are very sorry that our systems and processes have not been adequate and effective enough to deal with the demand and would want to reassure the public of Fife that we are taking steps to rectify this.

"We accept that on this occasion our planning was not sufficient, and we should have been better prepared to deal with the level of calls experienced.

“We appreciate this has caused understandable anxiety for some members of the public and we would like to offer our sincere apologies to those affected.

"We also want to thank local people for the understanding shown thus far and ask for their continued patience in the coming days.