Exclusive Some GP Covid vaccination sites have been managing a ‘substantial’ number of DNAs from patients who have already had their jab at a mass vaccination centre, Pulse has learned.
Patients have in some cases accepted invitations to book an appointment at a mass vaccination centre without cancelling their appointment at their local PCN site, GPs told Pulse.
Dr Paul Evans, chair of Gateshead and South Tyneside LMC, told Pulse this has led to DNAs for vaccination appointments in general practice, and staff scrambling to find other patients to prevent vaccine wastage.
He said: ‘It has been an issue across PCNs, and within my own PCN. We have had patients booked in who have not turned up. We phone them up, and they say “we had the vaccination at a mass vaccination centre the other day”. Sometimes they don’t answer their phone, and we see – when the results come across on Pinnacle – that they had it elsewhere.’
Dr Evans said there is ‘often a delay’ with vaccination data entered on Pinnacle at mass vaccination centres being ported to the clinical systems generally used by GP practices – including his own.
He added that some patients mistakenly believe that by receiving the letter inviting them to a mass vaccination centre that ‘they are meant to go there now, not the PCN site’.
‘They assume that either appointment has already been cancelled at the PCN site, or that at least the PCN site will be informed, so the appointment can be freed up for someone else,’ he said.
The issue was raised with Pulse earlier last week, but the NHS England announced on Friday that it will now send text invitations to all patients in priority cohort 6 to book in for their vaccination in case they have not been invited by GPs.
GPs were recently asked to focus on cohort 6 – clinically vulnerable patients aged over 16 – while NHS England focused on age cohorts 5, 7 and 8.
Stoke Road Surgery, in Gloucestershire, published a statement on social media on earlier this month (7 March) stating that it had an ‘awful situation’ where a ‘substantial number of people who had booked appointments’ at the GP-led site did not attend.
It added: ‘When phoned, many [patients] said that they had had the vaccine already, given elsewhere, and were surprised that we did not know.’
The practice said that this was because GP practices and mass vaccination centres are on two separate IT systems, and that it takes 2-3 days for vaccines given elsewhere to show up on their GP records.
It added that this ‘was not deliberate’ and merely a ‘misunderstanding of how the system works’, and asked patients not to have their vaccine elsewhere after booking with their local GP site – at least without first cancelling – to prevent DNAs.
Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, told Pulse that GP practices not having access to the national booking service has led to duplication of work.
He said: ‘The frustration I hear from practices is that they are phoning people up to book them in, and finding they have already got an appointment at the mass vaccination centres.
‘We have been working hard with the large vaccination centres, because we need both. But we end up fishing in the same pond sometimes, which is a bit of a difficulty.’
NHS England declined to comment but stressed it has asked patients who are given a vaccination appointment by both their local GP team and the national booking service to ‘cancel the one they do not want so the slot can be used by someone else’.
In a roundtable last month (25 February) organised by Pulse, PCN leads also raised concerns about duplication caused by NHS England’s mass vaccination centres.
Dr Partha Ganguli, a PCN clinical director in Preston, said: ‘We actually wrote to our ICS vaccine team [stating] that we don’t need further confusion with mass vaccination centres, and whatever workforce you are planning to use, give it to us and we would run the service much better.’
He said that request was turned down, adding ‘we are going beyond our capacity to do the job but, at the end of the day, I think our uptake is much better than a mass vaccination site’.
Meanwhile, Dr Sanjoy Kumar, a PCN clinical director in East London, said: ‘We weren’t told about the mass [vaccination] sites originally and how they would affect our area or they’d be even within half a mile of a centre that’s doing particularly well.
‘We weren’t told about the fact that someone else was going to be given the easiest cohorts which are in and out in three seconds, we weren’t told about the supply problems.’
Last month, GPs told Pulse that NHS England’s approach of offering patients a choice of getting vaccinated at a local GP or mass vaccination site was causing ‘unnecessary duplication’ and ‘confusion’ for patients.