Every GP practice should be able to deliver Covid vaccinations in the future, NHS England’s medical director for primary care has said.
Under current plans, from December if a vaccine becomes authorised for use it will be given to patients at one designated GP practice or other site in each region.
NHS England said it wants to see all practices able to give the jab eventually, but that supply chain issues – in combination with the vaccine’s ‘characteristics’ and how it needs to be ‘handled’ – meant this was not yet possible.
Speaking in an NHS England webinar last week, NHS England director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘We’re still getting quite a lot of questions saying “Why can’t every practice just do this, a little bit like flu?”
‘I think we’ve said it earlier on, this is about the vaccine characteristics as opposed to us being difficult.’
However, Dr Kanani added that it is NHS England’s ‘longer-term objective’ for all practices to be able to deliver Covid jabs once the vaccine becomes ‘more stable’.
She said: ‘Obviously as the vaccine becomes more stable and we’re able to deliver to lots of sites, we would want to get to the position where everyone can deliver this. That’s definitely a longer-term objective.
‘It’s just at the moment a very unprecedented cycle of bringing a new vaccine out to delivery in primary care.’
NHS England has previously said there will ‘initially’ be around 1,000-1,500 designated sites administering the vaccine, but that it anticipates expanding the number of sites ‘as supply generally increases over time’.
Speaking in the same webinar, NHS England primary care contracts director Ed Waller said considerations around the vaccine supply chain had also been part of the reason for focussing on select sites.
He said: ‘There are two reasons why we’ve done it in the designated site set-up. As Nikki says, one is considerations around the vaccines themselves – what they do and don’t lend themselves to and how they need to be handled.
‘And the second is to make sure that we have a supply chain that will make sure we can start this vaccination program as soon as possible and in a successful way.’
Mr Waller added that as different vaccine candidates are approved and evolve, delivery models are also likely to change.
He said: ‘This will continue to be a moving picture and the way in which the NHS delivers vaccination against Covid could change as a result of that. I think we’re all accepting of that.
‘This is the first set of arrangements to make sure that general practice and later community pharmacy are part of all of this, but it’s very possible that elements of this will evolve for the better as we go.’
NHS England was due to finalise the locations of designated sites last week and this week will confirm with providers and share information about the next steps.
Mr Waller also told GPs at the webinar that they are unlikely to be able to use their regular IT system to record Covid vaccinations under the new enhanced service in England.
GPs have been asked to take the lead on the Covid mass vaccination programme from as early as 1 December, via an enhanced service under which practices will be paid £12.58 per vaccine dose administered.
Last week the Government also announced GP practices will deliver flu jabs to patients aged 50-64 from 1 December as part of this year’s expanded flu programme.