GP-led Covid vaccine sites should review their ‘security plans’ and be aware of undercover protestors, NHS England has said.
NHS England will fund ‘reasonable requests’ for additional security, it added.
Earlier this year, NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said that NHS England ‘will not stand for’ disruption by anti-vaccine protesters at Covid vaccination sites.
Now updated NHS England guidance published today said that GP Covid vaccination sites should ‘review their security plan’ and work with their local police forces to ensure sites operate safely.
It said: ‘Make sure there are clear protocols in place to control access, both for staff and patients attending vaccinations. There is a risk that protestors may try and pose as either patients or staff.’
PCNs should also ‘consider protocols to minimise the risks to staff’ when on-site and conducting vaccinations, including on-site security staff, it added.
Further guidance on protest security is available on the FutureNHS platform, it said.
The NHS will fund ‘reasonable requests for security enhancements’ if GP sites identify ‘gaps in arrangements’ during routine reviews of their security, the guidance added.
Requests for reimbursement should be sent to the NHS regional finance team, it said.
It added that a risk assessment of each site should be carried out as part of the security plan, including ‘as a minimum’:
- security roles and responsibilities for the site, plus involvement from local police;
- site access and external controls such as traffic management;
- details around vaccine storage and movement;
- emergency protocols for incidents such as site lockdown or evacuation;
- waste management arrangements;
- security of information and awareness of possible conflicts with ‘adversaries’;
- out-of-hours security, particularly where vaccines are stored overnight.
PCN sites should also ‘[make] time available for site staff and volunteers to undertake relevant security training, including Action Counter Terrorism (ACT) e-learning’, the guidance said.
It comes amid a dramatic increase in levels of abuse towards GPs and practice staff over the past few months.
Last month, hoax Government anti-vaccination leaflets discouraging people from getting the Covid vaccine were planted in a GP practice waiting room in Reading.
And in July, the then vaccines minister Nadim Zahawi promised to ‘look at anything we can do’ to protect staff at NHS Covid vaccination centres against ‘abhorrent’ abuse.
Meanwhile, the document also said that GP-led vaccination sites that have not signed up to phase 3 of the Covid vaccination programme will stop receiving ‘nationally-sourced consumables’ at the end of October.
In August, NHS England said that primary care networks would no longer be provided with free ‘non-vaccine related consumables’ such as handwash during the booster programme.
However, it said that they would continue to receive ‘linked vaccine consumables’ such as syringes – as well as PPE.