The BMA’s GP Committee has demanded an investigation into the Government and NHS England’s ‘mismanagement’ of this year’s vaccination programmes.
A motion was passed at the GPC England meeting today which called for a review of the ‘circumstances which led to muddled and mismanaged communications’ and for reflection on how to ‘prevent a repeat occurrence’.
Last month, there was confusion over the start date for the adult flu and Covid vaccination programmes, which usually start in September.
NHS England said the programmes would start in October this year – a move which the BMA said would cause ‘serious disruption’.
But the Government then announced that vaccination will begin on 11 September, in what the BMA has called a ‘u-turn’, following the identification of a new Covid variant.
GPs were asked to vaccinate ‘as many people as possible’ by the end of October.
The GPC has said today that these ‘conflicting instructions’ led to confusion among GPs while also impacting on patient safety.
NHS England has said in response that it is ‘totally inaccurate and irresponsible’ for the BMA to say the vaccination programme was ‘delayed’ and that there was any ‘u-turn’.
To support the ‘acceleration’ for Covid vaccines, NHS England confirmed at the end of last month that GPs would be paid an additional £5 per dose, an additional £10 for care homes, and a £200 completion payment per home.
However, eligibility for these extra payments expires by the end of October.
In August, the Government had cut the fee GPs are paid per Covid vaccination by a quarter, from £7.54 to £10.06, prompting the BMA to issue a patient safety warning.
GPCE chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer said today that the fee reduction for Covid jabs from November means that continuing vaccination programmes will not be ‘financially viable’ for GP practices, which could put ‘vulnerable patients at risk’.
She said: ‘The campaign is a huge logistical operation, which practices plan many months in advance, so to throw plans into disarray with days to go, creating unnecessary additional workload and patient concern was incredibly frustrating – made all the worse by a refusal to offer the right financial support modelled as cost effective by the Government’s own Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations.’
Dr Bramall-Stainer added: ‘It’s clear that the direction for this year’s vaccination programme was not properly thought through, and we need a thorough explanation as to why. Most importantly, GPC England’s call for an investigation must prevent such mismanagement from happening again.’
In response, an NHS spokesperson said: ‘The NHS has already started the vaccination programme and quickly brought it forward in line with emerging evidence on the new variant and based on the latest scientific guidance – NHS England has communicated this clearly with local areas and the most vulnerable groups are already receiving additional protection.
‘It is totally inaccurate and irresponsible to say the programme was delayed and wrong to say there was any u-turn – NHS England has always acted in line with clinical advice and we have reached out to the BMA to discuss any concerns they have.’
When the programmes started for eligible groups last week, GP practices and vaccination hubs were left to ‘rally’ around to secure staff, and nursing leaders said that the last-minute changes put a strain on resources.
GP Committee England motion in full
GPCE has grave concerns regarding the management and decision-making involved with the A/W23/24 vaccination programmes by the Government and NHSE Vaccination Team, and demands an investigation into the circumstances which led to muddled and mismanaged communications to be undertaken and shared with GPCE to help prevent a repeat occurrence and encourage reflection and learning.