NHS Lothian has reversed its approach to care home vaccinations amid criticism that it has been too slow to provide the life-saving jags to elderly residents.

The health board has been under pressure from some providers over its decision not to carry out vaccinations where there are current coronavirus infections among residents or staff.

One Edinburgh operator, writing to families last week, said they had had planned vaccinations cancelled three times and “wholeheartedly disagree with this policy”.

READ MORE: NHS Lanarkshire suspends non-urgent operations for at least four weeks 

It is understood to have resulted in only five care homes out of around 65 in Edinburgh having completed immunisations as of January 5, at a time when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that “well over half” of care home residents in Scotland had been vaccinated.

As of yesterday, this had increased to 27 care homes in the capital.

NHS Lothian has been following Scottish Government guidelines, which had previously advised against vaccinations in care homes experiencing an active outbreak.

These have now been updated by Government to say that vaccinations can be carried out in homes with infections if a risk assessment concludes that the “outbreak or incident cases are segregated sufficiently”.

HeraldScotland: Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said on Monday that 70% of care home residents in Scotland had been vaccinated. But the pace has been moving faster in some areas than othersHealth Secretary Jeane Freeman said on Monday that 70% of care home residents in Scotland had been vaccinated. But the pace has been moving faster in some areas than others

However, Scottish Care, the umbrella body for private providers, said not all areas had been enforcing the previous policy to the same degree, creating a postcode lottery for residents.

A spokeswoman said: “Some health boards had stuck rigidly to this position.

"We are aware that other health boards had adopted a flexible approach which has enabled a local risk assessment to be conducted.

“Given the unfortunate growth in the number of care homes with outbreaks this is a critical issue to ensure protection of the most vulnerable.

"Data from January 6 shows 173 homes have an active outbreak, up from 155 the week before.”

Katie Allstaff’s 102-year-old mother has already survived Covid but is among those yet to receive the jag due to cases in her Edinburgh care home.

Mrs Allstaff, from Aberfeldy is Perthshire, said the policy had been “unfair” and welcomed the change.

She said: “If they’d carried on with it we’d have been waiting forever, because there’s been very few times in the past year where there hasn’t been someone in Mum’s home testing positive.”

Mrs Allstaff, who has seen her mother just three times in the past year, said she and her sisters are hopeful their mother will be vaccinated next week - but added that she would also like to see designated visitors prioritised for the jag.

“It’s been heartbreaking. When you hear your Mum say things like ‘I’m not living anymore, I’m just existing’.

“The people in this home have been in a state of isolation more than many others. There are families just tearing their hair out trying to get to see their relatives.”

READ MORE: Brexit and pandemic blamed as operators warn of £240-a-month care home hikes

Mrs Allstaff last saw her mother on November 30 at a Christmas afternoon tea organised by the home.

"They had been running these for about a week when we got our slot on November 30, and then the next day they had a staff member who tested positive - and everything was shut down again.

"Most of the families in the home never got their beautiful afternoon tea party, and if there is one day I could repeat in the whole of 2020 it would be that afternoon. It was one hour on one day, and that's been my last contact with my mother."

HeraldScotland: Virus rates in Edinburgh are running at 212 per 100,000, with test positivity of 9.9%Virus rates in Edinburgh are running at 212 per 100,000, with test positivity of 9.9%

David Small, executive lead for the vaccination programme at NHS Lothian, said: “By the end of this week, more than half of the care homes in Lothian will have been vaccinated.

“We have worked closely with the four Health and Social Care Partnerships to ensure that staff and residents are protected from the virus. By January 15, a total of 61 out of 110 care homes will have been vaccinated.

“In line with national guidance, we were unable to provide vaccination clinics in homes which have or have recently had outbreaks of Covid-19.

"We now have an agreed risk-assessed system which should allow us to reach more of the remaining homes and in turn protect more residents and staff.”

Concerns have also been raised about some elderly care home residents being left in limbo if they are considered “temporary”, or if they arrive after everyone else has been vaccinated.

Patrick Maitland-Cullen’s 83-year-old mother, Patricia, was transferred from Borders General to the council-run Waverley Care Home in Galashiels in December for assessment.

The pensioner, who has dementia and only one lung as a result of tuberculosis as a teenager, arrived days after the residents had been vaccinated.

Her family were told that as a temporary resident she would be inoculated once back in her own home, or as a permanent care home resident in another premises - but they have no idea when this will be.

READ MORE: Signs that mutant spread could be fading in Scotland 

She is now the only resident in Waverley who has not been immunised, and last week a staff member tested positive.

Mr Maitland-Cullen stresses that he and his sister have been very happy with the care his mother his received at Waverley, but is worried that other elderly people may be left his mother due to the logistical difficulties of the Pfizer vaccine used in care homes.

HeraldScotland: Patricia Maitland-Cullen, 83, has not been vaccinated because she is a considered a 'temporary' care home residentPatricia Maitland-Cullen, 83, has not been vaccinated because she is a considered a 'temporary' care home resident

He said: "It's a bit upsetting for us, but surely Mum can't be the only person in Scotland affected by this? There could be other people who, because of the pressure on the system, have fallen between two stools."

He says he wanted to speak out because his mother, who worked as a careers adviser and specialised in helping children with life-limiting special needs, would have done.

He said: "She was very strong-willed. She'd always stick up for people or raise things that were slightly uncomfortable for people, that is her nature."

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said it was "an anxious time" for older care home residents.

He said: "We would hope that if they haven’t already received the jag they are being kept fully informed about when that will happen.

“Now that the vaccine rollout has begun it is important that it is done safely and as rapidly as possible to ensure that everyone in the most vulnerable groups are protected and that no-one slips through the net because of a move between hospital, care home or their own home.

HeraldScotland: Virus rates in the Borders are running at 276 per 100,000, with test positivity of 13.4%Virus rates in the Borders are running at 276 per 100,000, with test positivity of 13.4%

A spokesman for NHS Borders - which yesterday tweeted that "all care home residents have received their first dose of vaccine" - said residents like Mrs Maitland-Cullen “have not been forgotten”.

He said: “Planning is underway and we would like to give reassurance that the delivery of the vaccine to vulnerable and high risk people, who are in the same situation, is imminent.

"In addition we are also putting a system in place to ensure that patients discharged to care homes from our hospitals will receive their first vaccine before they are discharged.”