I am over 65 and booked my free flu jab with the pharmacy at the end of September and had it done on the 9th of October. My son has SMI and also qualifies for a free vaccination. I booked his jab with the GP surgery at about the same time I booked mine, and it was booked in for the 10th of October at 11.17 am. I had no problems making this booking.

However, as my son suffers from insomnia and sometimes oversleeps in the morning, I was concerned he wasn’t going to make it on time to the surgery as the time of his appointment was very precise. I therefore tried to book an alternative appointment for him with the same pharmacy online around the end of September but by then they didn’t offer flu jabs for the under 65s and was told to go to the GP. I believe I was among the lucky ones to have my jab with the pharmacy as I think they stopped offering flu jabs even to the over 65s shortly after.

I usually choose the pharmacy because I feel it is more flexible and on the High Street. You can have appointments in the afternoon and it’s never as precise compared to the GP surgery where the number of minutes seems to be counted. This is the reason I wanted my son to go to the pharmacy. The pharmacist is usually busy and not waiting for you to arrive, so I feel it is less stressful for patients if they are a few minutes late.

As a carer, I found it stressful as I had to call my son on the phone and make sure he was up and ready to go to his appointment at the surgery. Moreover, my son is very self-conscious and highly sensitive and doesn’t like to acknowledge his health problems, so he felt very uncomfortable being among elderly people and felt people were laughing at him (which I’m sure nobody was) for having a flu jab.

I can only imagine it’s now taking longer to book flu jabs at GPs as the pharmacies have now run out of and no longer offer them in my area. This means that people with SMI and their carers are restricted in where they can get their flu vaccine done, despite some venues being more supportive of mental health needs.

Our guest blogs share the experience and views of the authors; these views are not necessarily those of Equally Well UK

Equally Well UK created three resources on Flu Vaccination and Mental Illness, click here to read more.