‘Scandalous’: Family’s dismay after 89-year-old Bexhill hospital patient not offered Covid booster jab

A stepdaughter says it is “scandalous” her vulnerable stepfather has spent weeks in hospital without being offered a Covid booster jab.

Leslie Needham, 89, from Little Common, Bexhill, suffered a stroke and was taken by ambulance to hospital last month - two days before he was due to get his booster jab. But after five weeks in Bexhill Hospital’s Irvine Unit - which specialises in stroke rehabilitation - he has still not been given the booster jab, despite repeated requests from his family, his stepdaughter Leonie Hartard said.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Leonie, 52, said hospital staff have been unable to give a reason why Leslie and other patients are not being offered booster jabs. On Monday (December 20), she said she was told by Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) - which was introduced to ensure the NHS listens to patients and their relatives - that no booster jabs are being given to any inpatients at Bexhill Hospital, the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, or the Eastbourne District General Hospital. She said they were unable to say why.

Leonie Hartard said: "This is nothing short of scandalous. Why would inpatients - especially the elderly - not be offered the booster?"

“This is nothing short of scandalous,” she said. “Why would inpatients - especially the elderly - not be offered the booster? Boris Johnson clearly stated that ‘wherever you are, there is a booster available to you.’ The vaccine (and presumably booster) is now mandatory for all NHS staff, because they are in a ‘high-risk’ setting. If the booster poses no health risk to an inpatient, then why not for those whose health conditions and age make then the most vulnerable?”

Leonie, a costume designer, from Battle, said her mother Jean Hartard, 75, is “desperately worried” Leslie will not survive if he gets Covid because his “immune system is severely depleted”. Leonie said Leslie’s condition has deterioated in recent weeks. “He has gone from being an extremely fit, active, 89-year-old with no pre-exisiting health conditions to no speech, very little mobility, and more importantly I feel, since he’s been at the Irvine Unit, he’s had urinary and chest infections, and in fact today they’ve discovered he has some sort of gastro infection as well,” she said.

She said her mother keeps getting reminders from the NHS for Leslie to get his booster. They took a copy of a letter and gave it to a nurse at the Irvine Unit who kept it on his file “as a reminder to the nursing team that his booster’s due.” After three weeks of asking whether Leslie was finally going to be offered a booster jab, they had a “teams meeting” at the hospital with Leslie’s consultant. “They told us that there is no plan to provide the booster for any of those patients on the Irvine Unit. And they couldn’t give us a reason, and that’s my big issue with it.”

She added: “Yesterday someone called me back from PALS and said, ‘it’s not just the Irvine Unit’. He said it’s an East Sussex-wide thing, and that no inpatient will be receiving a booster across Eastbourne, the Conquest, and Bexhill.” She added: “I don’t know why the most vulnerable people aren’t getting it. This could be someone with a heart condition, cancer patients. If you look at the current national campaign it’s very clear that any adult is eligible.”

Leonie contacted Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman to complain about her stepfather’s experience. His office said they had raised the matter with East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. An East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust spokesperson told the Observer: “Rolling out booster jabs to our communities is a top priority and alongside opening vaccination hubs at the Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne District General Hospital, a booster vaccination will be offered to all our inpatients.”