Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a target for the NHS to give booster Covid jabs to all over-18s within two months.
Speaking at the same news conference, NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the payment per vaccination would increase to £15 Mon-Saturday and £20 on Sundays and bank holidays so that GPs would be ‘properly rewarded for their efforts’.
And she said they are looking at whether the 15-minute post-vaccination observation period can be scrapped to speed up vaccinations.
Ms Pritchard also said CQC had agreed to continue to pause GP practice inspections, and that they were also looking at ‘cutting other burdens’ for GPs.
The Prime Minister said: ‘The target that we have set ourselves is to offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January – and as with the first jabs, we’ll be working through people by age group going down in five-year bands.’
Ms Pritchard confirmed that it is NHS England’s ‘intention to ensure that everyone eligible for a booster is given the chance to book one before the end of January’.
She added: ‘The NHS Covid vaccination programme was already in its most complex phase and staff are now working at breakneck speed to respond to this – the biggest change in eligibility since the programme was launched.
‘To make this happen, we will need to expand vaccination capacity right across the NHS.
‘Our hardworking GPs, community pharmacists and their primary care colleagues have delivered the lion’s share of the vaccinations so far. We’re looking at how we can help them to do even more jabs by cutting other burdens on them to free up clinicians’ time.’
She set out:
- Until the end of January, the payment for ‘standard’ vaccine delivery will increase to £15 per jab, an additional £5 per jab will be offered on Sundays and bank holidays to ‘increase capacity’ and vaccinations delivered to the housebound will be eligible for a £30 ‘premium’;
- The CQC has ‘agreed to continue its pause on routine inspections of general practice to help free up clinicians’ time’;
- NHS England is ‘looking at whether we can safely reduce or even eliminate the 15-minute wait after the jab is delivered’.
New JCVI advice on halving the gap between second doses and boosters means an additional 6.9m over-40s will be newly eligible for a booster, while the expansion of the programme to 18-39s has made more than 7m people in the age group eligible, Ms Pritchard added.
She set out that the programme will continue to prioritise the most vulnerable, meaning those who were ‘already eligible’ will be vaccinated first and then bookings opened to others in stages.
She is writing to the NHS to set out the next steps, she said.
It also recommended that a booster dose can be given three months after completion of the initial course of vaccination – a reduction from previous guidance of six months.
Further, 12 to 15-year-olds should have their second dose of Covid vaccine 12 weeks after their first dose and patients who are immunosuppressed should be offered a booster dose, three months after their third jab, which had completed their initial vaccination course.
The announcement came just weeks after the booster campaign was expanded to include over-40s, in addition to vulnerable and older adults.
Please note: A previous version of this article said that the new target was for all adults to be jabbed by 31 January but NHS England clarified that it is for all adults to be offered an opportunity to be booked in for a jab by that date, although appointments may not take place until after it has passed. It was also corrected to reflect that the Sunday and bank holiday payment is £20.