People are ‘jumping the Covid vaccine queue’ due to IT loophole - EXCLUSIVE

Sophia Sleigh and John Dunne
·7 min read
<p>The Standard investigates how people have been circumventing the priority list</p> (Lucy Young)

The Standard investigates how people have been circumventing the priority list

(Lucy Young)

Covid vaccinations meant to protect the vulnerable and health workers have gone to ineligible people due to an IT loophole, an Evening Standard investigation reveals today.

People who are not yet eligible for the Covid vaccine have managed to jump the queue by signing up through links that are being shared on WhatsApp and social media.

The links are part of the online booking system by Swiftqueue which is being used by some NHS trusts to coordinate vaccine appointments for staff.

The Standard has seen evidence that people who are not staff or on the vaccine priority list have managed to use the portal to secure Covid jabs in east London and parts of the north.

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It comes after a link meant for staff at the East London NHS Foundation Trust [ELFT] was shared outside the mental health trust’s community.

It is understood that the ELFT is aware of the problem and people are now being asked for ID when they come for a jab.

The website allowed anyone to book a vaccine over the age of 18 and regardless of eligibility.

Last night, the Standard was able to use the link to book an appointment for 09.50am on Wednesday with the follow up jab scheduled for the same time on April 5 at the Westfield vaccination centre in Stratford.

The booking took less than five minutes with name, postcode, NHS number along with a checklist on basic health information.

Standard Investigation: Covid-19 vaccination centre at Westfield, Stratford.Lucy Young
Standard Investigation: Covid-19 vaccination centre at Westfield, Stratford.Lucy Young

The appointments were confirmed almost immediately after the online form had been completed.

Our investigator cancelled the appointments after booking to ensure that no one was being deprived of a jab and there were a number of free appointments still available throughout the day.

There has also been reports of people, who are not yet eligible, trying to use similar portals to sign up for jabs around the country including Nottinghamshire and Chesterfield.

Addressing the queue jumping on Wednesday evening Swiftqueue, that is responsible for scheduling vaccination appointments, warned anyone doing it “you will be wasting healthcare workers valuable time and you won’t be vaccinated.”

CEO Brendan Casey said: “Anyone who books to get the vaccine fraudulently will be turned away – full stop. Some people have used links shared with them to try and falsely get the Covid vaccine. If they book and attend the clinic to try and jump the queue and they do not have proof of eligibility and they will be turned away.”

He added: “The NHS’s current approach prioritises the elderly and those on the front line, health and social care workers, and the clinically vulnerable to be vaccinated first. If you get an appointment, please use it. If you are eligible and get an invitation, please get an appointment.

"If you do get an invitation by a shared link dishonestly to make an appointment, I am asking that you don’t – as you will be wasting healthcare workers valuable time and you won’t be vaccinated. You must be eligible to be vaccinated to receive the vaccine”.

MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy described people being able to queue jump as “extremely worrying”.

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She said: “These stories of people finding loopholes in the technology to book a vaccine and so bypassing the process to prioritise those who are most vulnerable or turning up on spec at vaccine centres to see if they can jump in are extremely worrying especially as many now boasting on social media it works.

“I urge people not to follow suit and use these links or try to blag their way into vaccine centres or try to find loopholes and so undermine the hard work being done by so many to get the vaccine out to those who are most at risk at harm.”

MP for Chesterfield Toby Perkins told the Standard he had found out ineligible people were using a local Swiftqueue link to get the jab.

He said: “The first I heard about it was Monday night when I got a text saying there was a URL link going around that gets you a Covid vaccine and people are getting it who aren’t entitled.

“So I went onto this link and booked on myself and it gave me an appointment as a 50-year-old – it didn’t ask me if I was a key worker. It allowed me to book on without my NHS number and it just gave me an appointment go down tomorrow at 10.10am.

“Obviously having done that I cancelled it – I wouldn’t actually want to take someone’s appointment. I went down and spoke to the primary care network yesterday and they are very conscious of it and they told me that don’t worry we challenge anyone who comes here and anyone who turns up who can’t verify they are a key worker will be turned away.”

But Mr Perkins said he knew of someone in their mid-fifties who was not on any list but had used the portal to secure an appointment and was given a vaccine.

Investigation: The Standard was able to book a vaccine through the link Lucy Young
Investigation: The Standard was able to book a vaccine through the link Lucy Young

He added: “I suspect a lot of the appointments they’ve got for this weekend will be people who are not frontline workers.”

He said the system had to be robust, adding: “Clearly early teething troubles mean that it hasn’t been [robust] and people who haven’t been entitled to get one have been getting one.

“I’m gratified to hear action is being taken and I’ll watch it very carefully because people really shouldn’t be jumping the queue.”

One social media user, who indicated they had got a jab, wrote: “Guilty as charged! No-one asked for NHS identity. We were not turned away.”

Another wrote: “My mother-in-law 84 had hers cancelled locally. Now has to travel 50 miles, she has dementia and we are shielding. My mother 83 diabetic has not heard about hers yet. But people in her area are using Swiftqueue to book regardless of age.”

Another wrote: “Perhaps someone could explain this to me. Millions of elderly are patiently waiting for the vaccine why is it that hundreds are immorally jumping the process by logging into Swiftqueue Nottinghamshire portal, without letters or referrals?”

A spokesman for the East London NHS Foundation Trust said: “People attending appointments at the Westfield Vaccination Centre will be asked for proof that they have personally been invited for a vaccination and belong to one of these priority cohorts, to ensure that no one who is currently ineligible for the vaccine receives it as a result of making a false online declaration."

It is understood similar safeguards are being taken in other areas.

A spokesperson for Swiftqueue, that has so far booked nearly 600,000 vaccinations, said: "It has recently come to the company’s attention that a small number of clinics have had the queuing link shared with people that are not the intended recipients, resulting in a small number of people trying to access Covid Vaccines fraudulently.

"The online queuing system is designed to be quick and easy to use. Once an eligible recipient of the vaccine is invited to book their vaccine appointment by the NHS or their GP, they log on and use Swiftqueue software to book an appropriate time using the link to the service they have received.

"As part of the terms and conditions of the service, when they arrive at their allotted time, they must show proof of eligibility and identity to enable them to be vaccinated. If they are due to be vaccinated they will be. If they have deceptively tried to jump the vaccine queue, they will not be vaccinated and will be turned away. ”

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