GP-led vaccine sites will be able to order the Covid vaccines they want when they want them in phase three of the programme, NHS England has said.
It comes as new NHS England guidance on the booster programme due to run from September this week revealed that offering the vaccinations at individual practice level is ‘not operationally feasible’.
Rich Duffy, who works with NHS England on the vaccine supply chain, told GPs that while Covid vaccine stock had been ‘heavily supply-constrained’ during the programme so far, this is no longer the case.
Speaking in an NHS England GP vaccination webinar last night, he said: ‘We frequently went to a near-zero stock position centrally within the warehousing set-up over the last couple of months.
‘Managing that and balancing it between what stock goes to the PHE warehouse and what goes to the wholesalers before it goes out to the GPs and PCNs has been a real balancing act.’
He added: ‘We are now at a point where vaccine supply is not a constrained commodity and so as we move into phase three, this is more about giving you the controls at site level.’
Vaccine delivery is now moving to a ‘capped pull model’ that will allow sites to ‘pull the vaccine that you want when you want it’, Mr Duffy said.
An NHS England letter published alongside the enhanced service specification for the booster programme this week said: ‘We are exploring moving to a “capped pull” vaccine ordering model in phase three to support sites to have greater visibility and influence over their supply of Covid-19 vaccine to designated sites and to aid with earlier scheduling of clinics.
‘This means that sites would have the flexibility to request their own vaccine, up to a maximum limit.’
However, Mr Duffy told GPs that if the ‘maximums aren’t set right and you can achieve more’, they can request changes to be made.
The letter added that NHS England ‘will, where possible, distribute available vaccine supply to providers that are best placed to meet the population need’.
And back in April, GP-led sites were told they would not receive any new first-dose Covid vaccine deliveries at all over a fortnight amid a dip in supply.
MPs had previously expressed concern about the Government’s ‘stop-start’ approach to Covid vaccine supplies to GP sites, while GPs had called for delivery to move from a ‘push’ to a ‘pull’ system – saying they had capacity to deliver much more than they are receiving.
Meanwhile, another NHS England GP webinar last night revealed that GPs are facing pressure from patients who want their second Covid jab before eight weeks to go on holiday.