Exclusive GPs networks that are struggling to go ahead with plans to begin Covid vaccinations next week should reach out to their commissioner for help, NHS England has signalled.
This comes as Pulse exclusively revealed yesterday that some PCNs have had to pull out of delivering the Covid vaccine next week because of the MHRA’s new anaphylaxis safety guidance – with other PCNs left to urgently reconsider plans.
However, it was not clear what sort of help NHS England is offering to PCNs which will struggle with the reinstated requirement.
Speaking exclusively to Pulse, NHS England primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani said yesterday that she was aware that practices ‘are reviewing their approaches to ensure they have the estate, staff and the resources in place to be able to do comply’ with the new guidance.
She added: ‘Of course we know not every single practice will be able to do so. If the 15-minute observation is making it challenging to deliver your vaccination plans next week, please get in touch with your commissioner to see the support that can be found.’
Meanwhile, in a bulletin to GP practices sent yesterday evening, NHS England said it would ‘consider the operational consequences; of the updated guidance for vaccination sites.
Pulse has also learned of a local example of a GP network which has been offered a meeting with its regional NHS England team to discuss how plans can progress despite the hurdles.
Dr Kate Harvie, from East Cleveland PCN, told Pulse that the offer came after the PCN informed its CCG this morning that it ‘had to pull out[ of plans to deliver the Covid vaccine starting next week because ‘the logistical problems were just insurmountable’.
Dr Harvie said: ‘Having informed the CCG that we were reluctantly pulling out of wave one this morning, they have been back to us to say that NHSE wants to meet with us next week to see how this can be progressed.
‘It’s possible we might find a way through this which will be good. Hopefully a new site. I don’t think we are anything like alone in having this difficulty.’
Dr Harvie added that GPs within the PCN were ‘really sad’ about having to cancel plans as they were ‘very keen’ to get their patients vaccinated.
Dr Helen Salisbury, a GP in Oxford, is part of a GP grouping which is able to stick with plans to start vaccinations next week, however she said the updated MHRA guidance meant significant changes to the logistics.
She told Pulse: ‘We’ve had to change our plans completely – it will make it a much longer day for everyone giving the vaccine, and we will need more staff to do it than we’ve planned.’
She added that she personally is ‘not entirely sure that [the observation period] is a good idea, in that you’ve got to weigh up the risks of spending 15 minutes indoors with other people keeping to the social distance’.
‘In terms of Covid risk, you’d like to have people in the building for as little time as possible.’
According to Dr Salisbury severe anaphylaxis risk – defined by MHRA as patients who need to carry an EpiPen – is also ‘quite rare’ in the over-80s group which is first in line for Covid vaccinations.
‘So it’s weighing up whether this observation period is actually doing these people a favour,’ she added.
‘It has now made some practices decide they can’t do it – which will be disappointing for their patients and will delay getting the vaccine out.’
Around 280 PCNs were due to join the vaccination programme next week (15 December), after around 50 hospital hubs began vaccinating over-80s and at-risk hospital staff this week.
NHS England has not told Pulse how many of these will be able to carry on with plans.
Pulse has also asked NHS England what sort of help they can offer to PCNs who are now having to reconsider their plans to participate.