GP vaccination teams will be ‘compensated appropriately’ for delivering Covid booster jabs through the Christmas bank holidays, NHS England has said.
They will be expected to deliver vaccination 12 hours a day seven days a week ‘as standard’.
Speaking at a GP webinar on the accelerated booster programme today, NHS England director of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme Dr Emily Lawson said there is ‘no way to meet this offer target without vaccinating on the bank holidays’.
She thanked vaccination sites that have ‘already put slots up for Christmas Day and Boxing Day’ and added that while ‘some communities may well want to be vaccinated those days’, it is Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 December ‘where we think we need to operate at full tilt’.
She said: ‘We absolutely need to ensure staff are compensated appropriately. Treasury has offered full support to the programme and so our finance team is picking up with Treasury.
‘As soon as we have clarity on that, which I would expect to get this week, we’ll make sure we write out to systems and make sure they understand what’s on offer.’
Dr Lawson also told delegates that vaccination sites should ensure they can operate 12 hours a day seven days a week ‘as standard’.
She said: ‘Sites need to request resources to enable them to operate 12 hours a day as standard seven days a week.
‘In every community, there should be slots available at least 16 hours a day and this should extend to 24-hour operations where relevant for local communities.’
Dr Lawson added that a system letter outlining the guidance will be published ‘later this evening’ or ‘at the very latest tomorrow morning’.
Meanwhile, NHSE primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said that NHS England will ‘back’ GPs to ‘make the clinical decisions that [they] need to’, after they were asked to ‘clinically prioritise’ Covid booster jabs over routine care.
She said: ‘It’s really difficult to give a list of things that you need to stop – it will be different from practice to practice [and] from patient to patient depending on what your patient’s need.
‘But what we are saying is that we back you to make the clinical decisions that you need to. We are absolutely behind you because we need you to do this because you are brilliant at doing this. And we need your help.’
She added that clinical prioritisation ‘might include pausing routine and non-urgent care’ or redeploying practice staff into other practices that are delivering vaccinations.
All practice teams, not only those who are delivering vaccinations, should ‘clinically prioritise services to free up as much capacity as you can to support this vaccination programme alongside delivering the urgent care that you deem appropriate’, Dr Kanani said.
The BMA and RCGP will be ‘providing some additional prioritisation guidance shortly’ that NHS England ‘will of course support’, she added.
NHS England also set out that:
- Vaccination sites should be ‘demanding’ the financial support they need to increase capacity and uptake
- Sites should request ‘extended’ estate if needed, such as portacabins, and consider using schools for vaccinations during the Christmas holidays
- They should adjust their capacity uploaded to the national booking service based on DNA rates
- CCGs, local authorities and ‘all local partners’ should redeploy administrative and clinical staff to support the vaccination effort
- Trusts should make staff available and ‘consider alternative arrangements’ for prescriptions and other paperwork that ‘sometimes ends up in general practice’
- General practice will be offered workforce support ‘as a priority’
- There will be ‘maximal flexibility’ for ‘mutual aid’ movement of vaccines between practices
- The programme is ‘not constrained in our workforce’ in terms of volunteers and the redeployment of staff
- There are no vaccine supply challenges with Pfizer or Moderna booster stock
In a statement published today, the BMA has called for the introduction of wider measures to combat Omicron, aside from offering all over-18s a Covid booster by the end of the month.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Despite describing the current situation as an “emergency” with a “tidal wave” of infections on the horizon, the Government’s response relying entirely on the vaccine booster programme is missing the wider measures required to control the spread of Omicron, including protecting millions of people who will not be eligible for the booster programme by the end of December.’
The BMA is calling for the Government to introduce ‘robust infection control measures in the community’ such as mandatory mask-wearing in all hospitality settings unless eating or drinking, the reintroduction of two-metre distancing in all indoor public settings and for it to ‘rethink its policy on vaccine passports based on being double vaccinated’.
It is also calling for infection control measures to be reintroduced in healthcare settings, including high-grade FFP3 masks where healthcare workers are ‘seeing patients suspected or actual cases of patients with Covid’.
Dr Nagpaul added: ‘General practice in particular is facing significant workforce shortages, meaning GPs and their teams cannot do everything for everyone all at the same time.
‘There are significant backlog pressures within the NHS and large volumes of urgent unmet need that simply cannot be delayed, we are discussing with Government and NHSEI how we can ensure patients get the care they need now and in the coming months.’
GPs must not be ‘blamed, scapegoated or subject to abuse for the reduction in access to routine services; in general practice, he said.
It comes as UK chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said during the same briefing that the requirement for patients to stay behind for a 15-minute observation period after their Pfizer or Moderna Covid vaccination could be scrapped in the ‘next few days’.