The BMA has called for GPs and practice staff to be vaccinated by the end of January or ‘within two weeks’ if at high risk.
It said this is ‘essential’ to prevent the NHS becoming ‘overwhelmed’ in the next three weeks, with GPs ‘pushed to the limit’.
The BMA yesterday said that it is ‘essential’ that all healthcare staff ‘must be vaccinated now’ to ‘protect an already depleted workforce and help prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed in the next three weeks.’
It added: ‘The BMA is urgently calling for all health and social care workers to be vaccinated no later than the end of January and those at greatest risk of contracting Covid-19 within two weeks.
‘So far, the Government’s approach to vaccinating staff has been ad hoc and often chaotic – some hospital trusts and GP practices have been able to vaccinate reasonable numbers of staff, others very few, or not at all.’
The BMA will survey members twice a week to track vaccination progress and ‘will be holding the Government to account for any shortfall’, it said.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘All of these workers are at constant risk of becoming infected, yet they are, beyond all doubt, the most important cog in the Covid-19 ‘care machine’.
‘If they fall ill with the virus and cannot work, there will be reduced care, fewer vaccinations given, fewer medical procedures and less patients getting better and going home from hospital where they may then need GP care; they are also at huge risk and working often 18 hour days.’
GPs are ‘pushed to the limit delivering an unprecedented mass vaccination programme in the community seven days a week’, he added.
Dr Nagpaul warned that the ‘slow pace’ of staff vaccinations is leading to ‘very significant’ absences and impacting patient care.
He said: ‘Vaccinating health and care workers won’t stop them being exhausted and won’t stop them feeling the stress and anxiety of not having enough time, or beds, to give patients the care they need.
‘But it will give them protection from this deadly virus and drive down on rates of sickness absence and necessary isolating, which are leaving services brutally exposed.’
GPs need ‘assurances’ from the Government that they are a priority for vaccination and can book an appointment to be vaccinated from next week, he added.
NHS England has said that Covid vaccinations should be ‘immediately expanded’ to frontline healthcare workers, with vulnerable staff prioritised based on risk assessments – but gave no deadline for all staff to be vaccinated.
In early December, GP sites administering the Covid vaccine were told to give any leftover jabs to staff members who have been identified to be most at risk.
However, the BMA last month called for more equal access to vaccination for doctors working on the frontline amid reports hospital admin staff is being prioritised ahead of patient-facing GPs.