I have to say that cannot be further away from my recent experiences of both emergency care and the planning and receipt of the vaccine.

A few days ago I had quite a serious accident whilst cycling off road near Messines and I needed urgent assistance for a bad cut.

I was taken to the Centro de Saúde in Messines and although they did not have an emergency unit, I was bandaged within minutes of arrival and sent to the emergency unit in Albufeira, as that was nearer to where I live.

The triage in Albufeira was done within 5 minutes of my arrival and I was being stitched within 15 minutes of arrival.

I have had 5 follow up visits for redressing and stitch removal and all appointments have taken place efficiently and within 10 minutes of the agreed time.

Apart from the emergency treatment, all this has been done free of charge. I am impressed with the SNS service.

Regarding the vaccination, my wife was first called over 4 weeks ago and so she has now had her two Pfizer vaccinations at the same Centro de Saúde.

I had not had a call, so on the day after the online booking system became available I went online and I was immediately allocated a date, which was followed up a few hours later with a time.

After one or two mistakes with formatting, I accepted the appointment and it was confirmed.

The vaccine facility in Albufeira is next to Lidl, so there is plenty of parking available and the organisation was excellent.

I was checked in within 10 minutes of arrival. I was helped with the questionnaire, as it was in Portuguese and my language skills are not strong, especially with healthcare vocabulary.

We were seated in rows 2 metres apart and called in order.

The injection was painless and following a 30 minute sit down in a separate part of the building, we were free to go with confirmation of the follow up vaccination in 4 weeks time.

The organisation and throughput was impressive.

In the past, my wife and I have always had excellent service from the SNS including free mammograms for my wife and colon tests for us both. I have no complaints.

There are sometimes language difficulties with some of the staff, but that is our fault, as our language skills are not good enough. But that has never really been a problem, because through my pidgeon Portuguese, hand signals and the occasional Google Translate we have always coped.

Trevor Roberts,
By email