GP leaders are resisting NHS England proposals to further reduce the Covid vaccination fee, arguing that it would make the programme ‘financially unviable’.
Under the current enhanced service specification for Covid vaccinations, valid until 31 August, GPs are paid a £10.06 item of service (IoS) fee for each Covid vaccine administered, and an additional £10 for each housebound patient.
This was already reduced down from £12.58 last year but an update to members by the BMA’s GP Committee for England suggested NHS England wants to reduce the fee further, because it could be tagged onto flu vaccinations.
The update, undersigned Dr Richard van Mellaerts, said: ‘GPCE discussed the proposals by NHSE to reduce the Item of Service fee for Covid vaccinations. NHSE believe that the fee should be reduced as flu and Covid can be administered jointly.
‘GPCE do not agree with this, as the IoS does not cover the cost of delivering the immunisation and reducing the IoS will make delivering the programme financially unviable.’
The IoS fee for flu in 2022/2023 was also £10.06 of each vaccine administered.
NHS England refused to say what new fee it has proposed for Covid vaccinations because contracts have not been published yet.
When the fee was reduced last year, BMA advised GPs to review whether they were still able to fulful the ES commitments.
NHS England’s guidance at the time stressed that only GP practices with ‘sufficient workforce capacity’ should opt in to give Covid boosters ‘so as not to impact the delivery of essential services’.
The commissioner is working on aligning payments for flu and Covid vaccinations paid to GP practices but will not achieve this goal before 2025/26 at the earliest. As it stands, NHS England flu vaccination payments are made directly to GP practices while Covid vaccination payments are made to PCNs.
Last month, NHS England national director for vaccination Steve Russell was told this ‘remains a real sticking point’ for people working in general practice because it makes it ‘very difficult to join together flu and Covid campaigns’.
A national vaccination strategy for England is expected before the end of the year.