The Government are procuring vaccines on behalf of all parts of the United Kingdom and supplying them to the devolved Administrations. It is for the Scottish Government to manage the roll-out of the vaccines in Scotland. However, our British armed forces are supporting the NHS in Scotland in this vital task.
The vaccine roll-out has been excellent, with the United Kingdom again having among the strongest responses in the world. As there are varying degrees of success in the four different parts of the Union, will my right hon. Friend confirm what discussions he has had with the vaccines Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi)—in order to guarantee that the four constituent parts of the UK will receive sufficient vaccinations to hit their targets of the first four groups by the middle of February?
The devolved Administrations are receiving their shares of vaccine based on population, and the schedule of deliveries will fully support vaccinations of the first four priority cohorts by 15 February. All parts of the United Kingdom therefore have an equal chance of meeting that mid-February target.
Throughout this pandemic, we have seen the incredible work done by the armed forces to support us up and down the country, and in my constituency and across Lancashire, that has been help with testing. We know that in Scotland, the armed forces are now supporting vaccination centres, ensuring that life-saving treatment can get to those who need it. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this shows the strength of the United Kingdom family, with help and assistance ready to be sent to any corner of it?
I am absolutely delighted to echo my hon. Friend’s comments. Our British armed forces have played a number of essential roles in Scotland during the pandemic. They have airlifted patients to mainland hospitals from islands. They have delivered personal protective equipment. They have run mobile testing centres in rural areas and, at present, as he alluded to, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are setting up 80 vaccination centres across Scotland.
The most recent statistics for the number of covid-19 vaccination doses administered per 100 people stand at 11.4 for England, 9.8 for Northern Ireland, 9.2 for Wales and 8.1 for Scotland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that directly comparable statistics across the UK can be incredibly helpful to drive up performance in the NHS, and will he outline the plans that he has to pursue this agenda further?
Government Ministers in both the UK and the devolved Administrations are committed to transparency around the numbers of people who have been vaccinated. There are also a number of mechanisms for sharing best practice between Ministers and officials of all Administrations. The faster we can vaccinate, the more lives we can protect and the quicker we can return to normal.
May I start by thanking the GPs and other NHS staff across the Scottish borders, who have been working incredibly hard over the last few weeks to get vaccines into people’s arms? I have been speaking to GP practices across my constituency. One of them said:
“Our English counterparts over the border seem to have access to a lot more vaccines than us and that is causing a lot of unrest within the community.”
She went on to say that
“if we could have a guarantee of a definite amount of vaccines”
from the Scottish Government, it would make it a much easier job to plan and administer. What assistance can the UK Government provide to ensure that vaccines are delivered to GPs more quickly and efficiently across Scotland?
The UK Government are ensuring that NHS Scotland gets an equitable share of those vaccines. How it is distributed is a matter for NHS Scotland and, rightly, as health is devolved, that is a matter for the Scottish Government. If my hon. Friend’s constituents are concerned about any aspects of distribution, the best thing for them would be to take up their concerns with the Scottish Government.