Exclusive GPs have clinical discretion to move onto phase two of the Covid vaccination programme if efforts to reach eligible patients have been exhausted, the BMA has said.
A spokesperson confirmed that the BMA expects practices to receive payment for this, although phase two cohorts – the under-50s – are not yet authorised as eligible.
Practices were this month given the option to continue with phase two of the Covid vaccination programme, as long as certain conditions could be met.
NHS England has repeatedly stressed that phase two will begin once the cohorts are formally authorised by the Government and practices should not invite any patients below cohort nine for vaccination – unless in exceptional circumstances.
However, the BMA told Pulse that PCNs have the clinical discretion to vaccinate the next most eligible patients in order to prevent vaccine wastage.
A spokesperson said this could be the case once all efforts to reach patients in priority groups one to nine have been exhausted and leftover vaccines cannot be stored or moved to other sites.
The BMA would expect practices to be paid for any phase two jabs delivered, although they are not yet covered by the enhanced service specification, they added.
It comes as GPs have called for practices to be given the green light to move onto phase two, amid reports that other vaccination sites have already done so.
Kingston PCN clinical director and GP partner Dr Richard van Mellaerts told Pulse: ‘There was a call via a widely shared text message in Guildford last weekend for anyone over 50 to attend the local mass vaccination centre and then later, anyone 45+.
‘If mass vaccination centres are already vaccinating over-45s, it puts practices signed up to phase two at a distinct and unfair disadvantage.’
In a GP webinar last night, NHS England that GPs should not vaccinate outside authorised cohorts and reiterated that they should bring forward second doses instead.
A slide presented at the webinar said: ‘It is extremely important that there is not vaccination of cohort 10 until that cohort is formally opened by JCVI.
‘If, and by exception, you have vaccine at the end of a clinic which may be wasted (as short-life Oxford/AstraZeneca stock or Pfizer/BioNTech), please bring forward cohort one to nine second doses (minimum eight weeks) as a first step.’
NHS England previously said that GPs should focus on vaccinating cohorts one to nine and delivering second doses, which double from April.
Rather than start phase-two jabs, it said practices should use reserve lists of eligible patients and redirect stock to other sites to avoid wastage.
NHS England has updated its enhanced service specification and patient group direction (PGD) for the vaccination programme to reflect the upcoming authorisation of phase two patients.
It previously said that the same terms and conditions, such as item of service (IOS) fees, will apply in phase two.
The Government has set targets for all patients in priority groups one to nine to have been offered their first Covid shot by 15 April and all adults to be offered a first dose by 31 July.