GPs should have ‘one-to-one conversations’ with any member of practice staff who has not had both doses of the vaccine, NHS England has said.
It comes as doctors are set to debate mandatory Covid vaccination for all doctors at the BMA’s upcoming annual representatives’ meeting.
New NHS England guidance published last week said the meetings should ‘continue’ to take place to ‘protect our patients and services’.
It said: ‘To support colleagues and to protect our patients and services, NHS providers and primary care organisations are also asked to ensure that: one-to-one conversations continue with any member of staff or student who has not had both doses of the vaccine.’
An NHS England spokesperson said this is based on previous guidance for trust HR directors, but was unable to point Pulse to any previous primary care guidance about the meetings.
The guidance added that ‘robust local monitoring processes’ should also be in place for ‘regular’ student and staff testing and that all staff must be offered ‘continuous learning’ on UK infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance, including ‘refresher’ events.
Dr Mike Smith, a partner in Hertfordshire, said he feels ‘deeply uncomfortable’ about having the meetings with so little guidance about next steps.
He told Pulse: ‘I’m more than up for having a conversation with my staff about the risks and benefits [of the Covid vaccine] but after I’ve had that conversation, what next?
‘We’ve got a workforce crisis, we’ve got barely any staff and barely enough appointments anyway. Is this just going to be something once more that pushes someone away from general practice if they feel they’re being coerced into having a second dose of the jab?’
He added: ‘Let’s face it, if someone’s not had the jab by now, they’re not likely to be pushed over the edge by a GP saying “you really should think about it”. So the question I have, is what do you want us to do about it if they still refuse it?
‘If they’re in an obvious patient-facing environment then the conversation probably needs to be had with an occupational health department rather than us. In short, I feel deeply uncomfortable having those conversations.’
Meanwhile, doctors attending the BMA’s annual representatives’ meeting next month will debate a motion on making Covid vaccination mandatory for all doctors who are not medically contraindicated.
The motion, proposed by the BMA’s Islington Division, said: ‘This meeting believes that all doctors should be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless there is a medical contraindication.’
The Government previously said that it would launch a further public consultation ‘in due course’ on whether or not to make Covid and flu vaccination ‘a condition of deployment’ in GP practices.
The BMA conference, which will take place on 13 and 14 September, is also set to debate NHS England’s ‘negative briefings’ suggesting GP practices were ‘shut’ during the pandemic.