NHS England has asked CCGs to ‘minimise any burden’ on GP practices from services they commission that aren’t focused on Covid or ‘recovery’, as part of measures to support the vaccination programme.
It comes as NHS England yesterday announced that GP and pharmacy vaccination sites are set to receive a cash injection of £20m to boost uptake of the Covid jab.
In a letter sent to practices yesterday, it outlined further measures to support practices with the vaccination programme, including a relaxation of certain local enhanced services.
The letter said: ‘We are asking CCGs to seek to minimise any burden associated with locally commissioned services at this time where these do not support Covid-19 vaccination, Covid-19 related activities or recovery activities.’
It remains unclear what exactly is intended by seeking to ‘minimise any burden’ and whether this means services should be income-protected, as well as whether this will apply to all practices or only those delivering Covid jabs.
NHS England has been approached for clarification.
The letter added that commissioners should ‘offer all possible support’ to local practices as they bring forward second doses appointments for cohorts one to nine, including redeploying their own administrative staff.
It said: ‘We recognise that rescheduling clinics takes significant time and resource particularly for administrative staff.
‘Further to our announcement on 20 May that PCNs can claim an additional £1,000 for rescheduling appointments in line with JVCI’s guidance, we are also asking CCGs and systems to consider if they could deploy any administrative staff to support PCNs that are still needing to reschedule appointments.’
Meanwhile, the letter added that NHS England will now give GP-led vaccination sites ‘earlier notice’ of supply as ‘predictability has improved’.
Sites will now be notified of their final vaccine schedule 17 days before the start of each vaccination week rather than 10 days before, it said.
GP practices were expected to restart enhanced services and QOF reporting from April, and those taking part in phase two of the vaccination rollout must do so while fulfilling all of their regular contractual duties.
The BMA has said it is in ongoing discussions with NHS England about extending income protection for QOF, DESs and local enhanced services (LESs) – although NHS England told practices this month that it has ‘no plans’ to suspend QOF or income-protect it this year.
At the start of the pandemic in March last year, NHS England said that GP practices would have their LES income protected, alongside income protection for QOF and DES payments.
And in January, it reiterated that LESs should be suspended with income protected, except ‘where these are specifically in support of vaccination’ or other Covid activities.
But in March, it was revealed that one in ten GP practices were missing out on funding for NHS Health Checks and local enhanced services (LESs) because commissioners were failing to protect income against national guidance.