Health campaigners have voiced disbelief following claims young and healthy national health and social care regulator staff have used wriggle room in the Government's rules to "jump the queue" for Covid vaccinations.
Doctors and patients in the Richmondshire area of North Yorkshire said they had been stunned to see people in their twenties attending the Leyburn clinic for vaccines, as Government rules explicitly state only elderly and frail people should receive the jab in the first wave, alongside inoculation programmes for frontline workers at health and social care settings.
NHS whistleblowers said it had emerged the younger people attending the Richmondshire clinic were Care Quality Commission (CQC) staff based at offices in Middlesbrough, about 40 miles away.
The whistleblowers, whose names are withheld, said CQC staff had prioritised themselves over vulnerable elderly patients.
One of the whistleblowers said: "CQC staff have been able to book slots, despite working from home, being healthy and not at risk.
"It's hard to agree that healthy people in their third decade should be given a shot ahead of those in their eighth decade."
The CQC has not responded to many of the whistleblowers' claims, but said local NHS bosses were allowed to make exceptions to the Government's rules.
A CQC spokeswoman said: "Some CCGs have taken a local decision to offer vaccinations to staff who work across the wider health and social care system - this includes CQC inspectors who are visiting services where we have information of concern about the care people are receiving, or where an inspection means that a location can be approved to care for people leaving hospital who cannot return to their original care setting for infection control reasons."
When asked for its position on the issue, a spokesman for NHS North Yorkshire CCG, which covers the Leyburn area, emphasised the selection of people to be offered the vaccine in the first wave of the programme was "a national decision".
However, the statutory GP's body for the area, the local medical committee, has decided the CQC's work is vital to the NHS, and as its staff could be needed to visit sites facing serious issues at short notice, vaccinating them was not unreasonable.
Richmondshire councillor Stuart Parsons said the CQC staff should be having the vaccines at their base, "not travelling across country and parading themselves in front of old and vulnerable people".
He said: "Richmondshire has a large advanced stage population and they're all concerned about when they're going to get their vaccines, so this is almost an incentive to riot. If I'd been locked in for almost a year and then see youngsters piling in and getting the vaccine I'd be absolutely furious."
Health campaigner and former North Yorkshire scrutiny of health committee chairman Councillor Jim Clark said: "I don't want the programme distracted by people trying to jump the queue or not trying to jump the queue. People need to have confidence in the system.
"We need a definitive answer on this and in the past have not listened to whistleblowers at our cost. We've had so many slip-ups over the last year and we need to get this right."