Millions of vulnerable patients are being put at risk because the chaotic coronavirus booster vaccine rollout has left many struggling to get appointments.
The Government is on track to fall far short of its target of offering boosters to the 32million most vulnerable, including all over-50s, by Christmas Day.
At the current rate, of about 300,000 doses a day, nearly ten million at-risk Britons will still be unprotected over the festive period.
Ministers are under pressure to deliver 500,000 boosters a day to tackle waning immunity and stop a surge in hospital admissions.
Mirela Fliorica gestures as Serena Ng, a NHS vaccinator, administers the Pfizer/BioNTech booster Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in north London
‘Shambles’: Patients slam the rollout of third doses
Brian Bull and his partner Jennifer still have not received their boosters because of confusing instructions on the NHS website.
Mr Bull, 83, has been due for his jab for nearly a month but has been turned away by a clinic near his home in Appleby, Cumbria, every time he goes to it.
He added: ‘The NHS website said there was a walk-in centre at Penrith. We drove the 14 miles only for the receptionist to say she knew nothing about it.’
They were directed to a rugby club but ‘they weren’t holding sessions that day’.
He added: ‘We see so many advertisements from the NHS telling us to get our boosters, but it’s very hard to actually do it.’
And the rollout has been a ‘shambles’, said a retired police officer forced to go in person to his West Yorkshire GP to book his booster.
Keith Woodland, 74, who has an irregular heartbeat, was unable to book after he got an NHS text telling him to get a third jab.
‘After calling 119 I tried again but the system was down. I was told the surgery might have the wrong details about me.’
He said: ‘It’s a shambles. All these senior politicians who say people aren’t booking jabs – when we can’t do it anyway.’
Health chiefs have blamed the slow rollout on people failing to come forward, but in reality desperate patients say they are struggling to get jabs due to a ‘shambolic’ system.
Last night the Labour Party wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning he has allowed the ‘wall of defence to crumble’, risking another national lockdown.
They are calling for urgent action to speed up booster and children’s jabs, such as recalling volunteers and retired healthcare workers and using more community pharmacies.
Experts say ministers can ‘turbocharge’ the rollout by using the same infrastructure that saw Britain lead the world in the initial rollout, when up to 844,000 jabs were delivered each day.
The current pace of the booster rollout means some eligible elderly patients have been told their next available appointment is in December.
Others report spending hours on the phone to their GP or the NHS booking service, with one woman only getting through on her 92nd call.
Red tape is also hampering the rollout, with one 94-year-old blind woman turned away from a jab centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, as she arrived a day early.
Patients are being encouraged to use the NHS walk-in finder for their nearest centre, supposed to be within ten miles.
But some have been told they must travel tens of miles to get their vaccine as many GP surgeries and pharmacies do not offer top-up jabs.
Pensioners on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent were advised by the NHS to go to Southend in Essex, a 128-mile round-trip, for their third dose as local centres do not have supply.
MPs are being bombarded with requests for help from constituents.
Labour shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: ‘One lady in her 70s who has underlying health conditions went to her pharmacy and called 119 just to be told she wasn’t eligible for a booster.
‘She has now finally got one booked for December but had to rely on her daughter to book the appointment for her because she doesn’t use the internet. The system simply isn’t working.’
Brian Bull (left), 83, and Jennifer Hodgkinson (right), 79, still have not received their boosters because of confusing instructions on the NHS website
The UK has passed ten million booster shots, with a record 371,000 delivered in England on Saturday.
But about 30 per cent of over-80s and 40 per cent of eligible over-50s have not had their third dose.
From today double-vaccinated people, who become eligible for a third dose six months after their second jab, can book their booster a month in advance.
Cases have fallen to their lowest level in more than a month, with 62 deaths and 30,305 infections yesterday.
Government data shows an average of 301,000 boosters delivered each day over the past week. To hit the target by Christmas Day this must rise to 460,000 a day.
Keith Woodland (above), 74, who has an irregular heartbeat, was unable to book after he got an NHS text telling him to get a third jab
Writing to Mr Javid, Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Nobody wants to see any more Boris Johnson lockdowns so getting a grip of the stumbling vaccination programme is urgent for ministers.
‘The booster campaign has been slow getting off the ground, the third doses for immunocompromised branded “chaotic”, and there are still pockets of the country with worrying below-average rates of second dose.
‘Tory complacency has allowed the wall of defence to crumble.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We are working at speed to get people boosted and our vaccination programme is making great progress.’