THE number of phone lines available for flu vaccine inquiries has been increased this year with more people eligible for a free jab.

NHS Forth Valley said that with more than 130,000 people eligible for a free vaccine across the health board area this year, the helplines have been very busy.

It issued an apology to those who have experienced any difficulties in getting through.

More staff are now available to answer calls while the hours of operation have also been extended.

The helpline is available between 8am and 8pm on weekdays and between 8am and 4.30pm at weekends.

The phone number can be found on appointment letters, which are being sent in batches to those eligible on a rolling programme, meaning not everyone will receive an invite at the same time.

However, the health board said everyone in high risk groups will be offered an appointment in the first phases during October and November.

In Clackmannanshire, children between the ages of two and five will be vaccinated by NHS Forth Valley's immunisation team as part of a pilot project.

A number of pharmacies across Forth Valley are offering the vaccine to staff working in the care sector, including staff who deliver care in people’s homes and NHS staff will continue to be vaccinated at work.

Care home residents will be vaccinated by nursing staff working in local care homes and specific arrangements are in place for pregnant women and people undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

The health board is also urging people to remember they do not need to call if they have a query or if they are looking to change their appointment.

People can also email with their name, date of birth and phone number and a member of the immunisation team will reply.

The address can be used for other flu-related questions.