GPs are having to do a ‘huge amount’ of cancellations and rebooking of Covid vaccine appointments amid last-minute changes to vaccine delivery times, regional GP leaders have claimed.
LMC leaders said this was giving practices ‘a headache’ and called for some ‘assurance’ about ‘when vaccine will be supplied’.
This week, GP sites in wave five of the rollout were expecting their first vaccine deliveries between Wednesday and Friday, while sites in wave six will be told today (Thursday 7 January) whether they have passed their ‘readiness assessment’ to commence vaccinations next week.
Slides presented in an NHS England webinar for GPs on Tuesday evening said ‘site-specific delivery dates have been confirmed’.
But according to LMCs, scheduling for delivery is unclear.
Londonwide LMCs medical director Dr Elliott Singer told Pulse: ‘There are ongoing issues with the whole logistics behind the vaccination programme. At present, there does not appear to be any clear scheduling for delivery of vaccines.
‘As such, it is very difficult to plan the vaccine clinics and have a clear plan for how and when we will be able to cover all our patients in cohorts one and two. I am hopeful that as more sites go live and we learn from early experiences these problems will resolve so that we are receiving a regular supply of vaccines to meet our population needs.’
And Lancashire and Cumbria LMC chief executive Dr Peter Higgins told Pulse: ‘[Practices] are promised it on a particular date then at the last minute are being told: “you’re not getting it today, you’re getting it tomorrow”, or what have you. And this is meaning a huge amount of cancellations of patients [and] rebooking. It’s absolute chaos out there.’
According to Dr Higgins, ‘all’ GP sites in his area are affected, and he added: ‘I think it’s a national problem because local managers at CCG and ICS level are equally frustrated and haven’t got control over it.’
He added: ‘What will help us a lot and indeed across the whole country is having some assurance about when vaccine will be supplied. That’s the big thing at the moment.’
According to Dr Higgins, this week the problem has been ‘worse than ever, with some PCNs ‘almost ready to throw the towel in’.
He said: ‘It’s not through being awkward, it’s just they’re exhausted. Staff morale is low, patients are being let down and despite their best efforts, they’re not able to deliver what they want to.’
Liverpool LMC medical director Dr Rob Barnett similarly told Pulse: ‘We’re getting some now who are getting deliveries brought forward, which is causing a headache. So one of our wave two PCNs was expecting a delivery on the 8th, but they sent it on the 7th.’
He said this was ‘a problem’ for practices planning vaccination clinics with the volatile Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine especially because ‘it lasts three and a half days, and then expires’.
PCN leaders have also told Pulse about delivery uncertainties, including one area which received a ‘surprise delivery’ of the Pfizer vaccine on New Year’s Eve.
Aspen PCN clinical director Dr Bob Hodges told Pulse: ‘We had a day and a half to book 1,150 appointments at our centre. Managed to give 1,162 doses in one day on Saturday, which may be a world record for the number of Covid vaccines done in one place on one day.’
He added that it is also ‘proving difficult to get absolute guarantees of deliveries in the next couple of weeks, which is holding back booking and rota building’.
Springfield Park PCN clinical director Dr Vinay Patel said: ‘The last delivery was “anytime before 4pm”, so we booked clinics from the following day morning. The delivery ended up arriving at 9.15am, so we effectively lost a day, which as you know is critical to ensure no wastage.
‘I’d like them to state and commit to am or pm delivery for every site, so we can get on with planning and booking effectively and with confidence. This is for our benefit, but also obviously good for patients too.’
NHS England, which has been set the task to ensure 13.9 million of the most vulnerable patients are vaccinated in just six weeks, has not returned Pulse’s request for comment.
Daily publications of the number of Covid vaccinations achieved will begin next week Monday, while a weekly update is expected today.