NHS England will invite all patients in priority cohort 6 to book their Covid jab online in case they have yet to receive an invitation from their GP, it has said.
It comes as it has revealed further details of general practice involvement in phase two of the vaccination programme.
An NHS England email bulletin sent to practices today said the National Booking System (NBS) will text patients in priority group six – those with underlying health conditions – to encourage them to book a jab at a mass vaccination centre or community pharmacy.
It said: ‘To ensure that those who are eligible come forward to receive their vaccine, the national booking service will send text messages to all those in cohort six with underlying health conditions encouraging them to book their vaccination via the national booking service if they are yet to receive an invitation.’
Currently, patients cannot book Covid jabs at their local PCN-led site through the NBS.
However, practices taking part in phase two of the vaccine rollout have been offered the opportunity to join the online system.
In a letter confirming details of the second phase, NHS England last night said that PCNs opting to join the NBS for Covid vaccinations will have to stop using any other local booking arrangements to ‘avoid confusion’.
The letter, sent to practices last night, said that those who sign up as part of a ‘small initial wave of PCN groupings’ will have to make it their ‘only booking system’ for Covid vaccine services for cohorts 10 to 12.
The letter added: ‘Existing bookings for new first doses will have to be transitioned into the NBS system from the point of go live and the site will only use the NBS for all new first dose appointments and corresponding second dose bookings.
‘To avoid confusion for patients and providers, sites cannot use the NBS alongside local appointment systems’.
PCNs signed up to the system must also accept all bookings made through it by eligible patients ‘irrespective of whether they are a registered patient’, it said.
Those wishing to join the system must express an interest by close on Friday 19 March, it added.
NHS England’s letter and guidance also confirmed:
- It will extend the additional PCN clinical director funding – topped up from 0.25 WTE to one WTE – ‘temporarily’ for April to June this year;
- Practices must either opt out or express an interest in taking part in phase two vaccinations by 23.59 on 19 March;
- Although PCN groupings must opt in or out as a whole, they can change the ‘agreed roles and responsibilities’ of practices;
- All practices in groupings that wish to opt in must demonstrate in writing that they can fulfil the requirements to balance first and second dose Covid vaccinations and core general practice activity using additional workforce capacity – and that first doses for phase one are ‘sufficiently complete’;
- Those that opt out can continue to provide vaccinations to cohorts one to nine under the enhanced service.
NHS England’s email bulletin added that all PCN-led vaccination sites will have to ‘provide assurance that an offer for vaccination has been provided to those in cohorts one to nine before the vaccination of cohort 10 begins’.
NHS England has also updated its enhanced service specification for the vaccination programme to reflect the changes.
GPs were last night told they have a week to opt out of continuing to deliver Covid vaccinations when the programme moves onto its second phase – the under 50s in cohorts 10 to 12.