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GPs not allowed to honour second-dose Covid vaccine appointments from this week


GP vaccine uptake


GPs must cancel and reschedule any pre-booked second dose Covid vaccine appointments that were arranged for today onwards, according to NHS England’s updated vaccine enhanced service specification.

Practices were told at the end of last month to delay the second dose of the vaccine to 12 weeks after the first, instead of the originally planned three-week gap.

From today they will now have to postpone any second dose vaccines they had originally booked with a three-week gap.

An NHS England letter sent to GPs and CCGs on 11 January reiterated ‘immediate action’ was required and that ‘all appointments to receive the second dose must be rescheduled’. It said they must take place ‘in the 12th week’.

The letter stressed the ‘public health duties’ of those involved in the vaccination programme to ensure as many people as possible are vaccinated.

The vaccines deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed last week that GPs have the discretion to honour second-dose Covid vaccine appointments already booked in.

But the updated NHS England specification, published on Thursday (7 January), said while ‘clinical discretion’ could be used to honour second-dose appointments planned for after Monday 4 January, this was only applicable to those scheduled to take place before 11 January.

The document referred to the new advice from the UK chief medical officers to give the second dose of vaccine 12 weeks after the first, enabling more people to receive the first dose.

It said: ‘For those patients who have received their first dose and are scheduled to receive their second after Monday 4 January but before 11 January, the second dose appointment should be rescheduled in most instances (with clinical discretion applied if needed in exceptional circumstances and in individual cases only. Where clinical discretion is applied in exceptional circumstances, this must be recorded in writing).’

The NHS England letter said: ‘To help us deliver our public health duties… we need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, including our frontline health and care workforce.

‘All vaccination sites must with immediate effect, ensure all second dose appointments that have not already been rescheduled must be rearranged.

‘This means all appointments to receive the second dose must be rescheduled, with recipients to be booked in for a second dose in the 12th week.’

It comes as some GPs have seen their second-dose vaccine deliveries cancelled unexpectedly – though NHS England says it has not authorised this to happen.

They have also warned of the confusion caused for patients if their second jab has to be rebooked, meaning some GPs had already decided they would continue to honour appointments.

A GP in Lancashire, who wants to remain anonymous, told Pulse: The second doses were honoured up until yesterday [10 January] and we’ve been prevented from being able to do further doses that were on second vaccinations this week, because the delivery hasn’t come. The 2,000 patients booked in have now been cancelled.’

The same GP added: ‘Patients are feeling like it’s a postcode lottery. We were in wave three, so we’ve got two other PCNs locally – one was wave one, as they had a higher majority of over-80s and nursing home patients, so they’ve managed to give their second doses. Locally, there’s a bit of uproar from other patients, saying: “My friend’s getting theirs, why aren’t I getting mine?”’

Another GP, who also wishes to remain anonymous, told Pulse last week: ‘They [NHS officials] cancelled all deliveries for both cohorts.

‘We had to cancel 975 appointments. But this morning [7 January] the delivery turned up unexpectedly in error. We are now rebooking 975 vaccines – these will need to be for a next cohort though (ie the remaining >80s and then starting with the >75s).’

Watford GP partner Dr Simon Hodes also wrote for Pulse last week on his primary care network’s decision to go ahead with delivering the second doses – a principle the BMA had also said it would support.

He described how cancelling them ‘would cause much distress, confusion, upset – and potentially a longstanding breakdown of trust’.

When Pulse asked NHS England last week (8 January) if it had introduced a policy of cancelling deliveries for second doses it said: ‘NHS England isn’t cancelling second dose deliveries’.

READERS' COMMENTS [8]

David Taylor 12 January, 2021 12:45 pm

As PCN CD I’m increasingly concerned that the Pfizer Vaccine may actually be difficult to get hold of in 6-8 weeks times when our second doses are now due based on this. Looking at vaccine allocations there is smaller amounts of the Pfizer vaccine being provided in favour of the AstraZenaca vaccine. There is also no word on when we will be able to order the vaccines ourselves. This is concerning me more and more, and I am very tempted to ignore this advice and start inviting some people for their second doses from next week (4-5 weeks after the first dose) alongside giving first doses for others with the AstraZenaca vaccine we are being provided with.

Patrufini Duffy 12 January, 2021 2:15 pm

Who are actually the 100 most influential GovUK healthcare politicians that create policy. That’d be a good article. They seem a secretive, nameless, impenetrable and wayward bunch. Who sat at that board meeting, and who signed off the paper. And who put radicalisation training on the list for a covid vaccinator. It is overdue quite frankly, to set their names in stone. Because no GP, surgeon or nurse knows who “they” are.

David jenkins 12 January, 2021 3:40 pm

i’ve tried to get my second vaccine – which is still booked for 18th jan, though i’ve heard on the bush telegraph it will not go ahead. i have tried to email the guy in charge at “public health wales” (dr andrew goodall), and been met with obstruction. apparently “he works for the welsh government, and we do not have his email address” – a likely tale !!! not surprisingly, he is not mentioned on the welsh government website.

Judith Crosse 13 January, 2021 6:19 pm

I arrived to work in my local vaccination centre today to find that ne second vaccinations are being done. My second is due today. I asked if I could have it if there were any vaccine left over and unused in a vial at the end of the clinic and was told that this was not allowed and that unused vaccine would be thrown away rather than use it to give the second dose. It beggars belief that the DOH would rather throw vaccine away than use it for a second dose. I am a retired GP who was excited to be able to help in this time of crisis. I don’t know how I feel now

Reply moderated
Patrick Mcnally 13 January, 2021 6:38 pm

I’m so sorry it has come to this.

Which vaccine site was behaving like this? A “hospital Hub” or a PCN site?

terry sullivan 13 January, 2021 7:07 pm

self-employed? really??

time to either dump nhs or go fully employed

terry sullivan 13 January, 2021 7:08 pm

judith–it does not beggar my belief

David jenkins 15 January, 2021 1:04 am

David Taylor

where do you work ? do you have pfizer vaccine ? can i come and have a second dose with you ? – wales refusing to do them (so i’m refusing work until i’m covered adequately)