The BMA has said that it cannot ‘endorse’ the care home Covid booster programme, which it said remains ‘underfunded’ after NHS England rejected its proposals.
Earlier this month, NHS England announced that GPs would be incentivised to deliver ‘accelerated’ autumn Covid boosters in care homes, with payments of up to £525 per completed care home.
The autumn booster programme launched last week in care homes and GPs have been asked to complete the booster jab rollout for residents and staff by 23 October where possible.
However, the BMA’s GP Committee suggested it would support practices and PCNs who ‘decide not to take part’.
Its latest GP bulletin said it was ‘unable to secure concessions sufficient for us to endorse this programme’ despite ‘concerted discussions’ with NHS England.
It said: ‘While additional support to deliver services is always welcome, we know that general practice cannot absorb additional workload pressures in the lead-up to winter.
‘As it stands, we found the proposal unduly prescriptive, overly bureaucratic and underfunded. We made several suggestions to try to remove these barriers, which NHSE/I declined to adopt, and there was no appetite to increase the funds available above £3.5m (assuming 100% uptake and success).’
The GPC said that while it ‘fully appreciates the importance of vaccinating the most vulnerable as soon as possible’, GPs ‘need to be appropriately resourced to do this workforce-intensive work’.
‘They also need sufficient time to plan, make workforce arrangements and order vaccines’, it added.
The bulletin said: ‘Some practices and PCNs may feel that they can take up NHSE/I’s offer, either because they have the capacity to spare or because this is broadly in line with how they have planned to administer care home vaccines anyway. We fully support these practices and PCNs in their efforts.’
However, it added that ‘other practices will decide not to take part and we want to reassure you that it would be entirely reasonable to forgo this offer’.
The GPC recommended that practices and PCNs ‘carefully consider the workload required to undertake this activity and if the resources on offer are sufficient for that purpose’.
GP-led vaccination teams were told they would be eligible for the payments on completion of the vaccination of all eligible residents in each individual care home by 23 October.
They will receive:
- £150 for each ‘small care home’ of 1-10 residents
- £275 for each ‘medium care home’ of 11-49 residents
- £400 for each ‘large care home’ of 50-149 residents
- £525 for each ‘very large care home of 150-250 residents
Those who cannot complete the vaccination of their care homes by the 23 October deadline should ‘make arrangements to vaccinate care home residents within 10 weeks of the start of the programme (from 12 September), or as soon as reasonably possible’, NHS England said.
GP leaders, including the BMA, previously raised ‘serious concerns’ about the financial and workload implications of the autumn booster programme.
In July, NHS England set out that GP-led sites will be paid a £10.06 item of service (IoS) fee for each vaccine administered – down from £12.58 – with a £10 fee remaining in place for each housebound patient.
At the time, the BMA said GPs should review whether the reduced fee for delivering Covid jabs from September impact their ‘ability to undertake the enhanced service’.
Around seven million people who are either health and care workers, over-75 or immunosuppressed become eligible for a booster today, after being invited to book in for their jab last week.
Covid booster vaccines will be extended to people aged 50 and over this autumn alongside other at-risk groups, following a final recommendation from the JCVI in July.