GP practices should ‘remain open and accessible to all patients’ through the Covid vaccination campaign, with NHS England set to announce a £150m cash injection ‘to expand general practice capacity’ up until March next year.
The news is contained within the specification for the new Covid vaccination enhanced service, of which Pulse has seen a draft version. However, the spec also says that will be expected to provide ‘the majority’ of staff administering Covid vaccinations from ‘their own workforce’.
The BMA’s GP Committee, which has agreed on the terms of the DES with NHS England, called on the Government to manage patients’ expectations with regards to what practices will be able to provide whilst delivering the ‘unprecedented campaign’.
The draft DES spec said: ‘Our shared ambition is for general practice to remain fully open and accessible to all patients. Separately NHS England has announced an additional £150m non-recurrent funding to expand general practice capacity between now and March 2021.’
However it conceded: ‘We also recognise that the additional workload of a Covid vaccination programme may require practices to prioritise clinical activity. Further reassurance on income is provided by the existing funding guarantee for the QOF in 2020/21.’
According to the vaccination spec, ‘practices will need to provide the majority of the required staff from their own workforce, though additional workforce, including volunteers may be available through agreed national frameworks or through any existing local channels’.
It said: ‘PCN partners in community services or community pharmacy may be able to support delivery. If practices want to use the Bring Back Staff Scheme and GP returners to recruit additional staff, they should liaise with their regional Bring Back Scheme leads to identify CVs and availability.’
According to the draft spec, staff will receive ‘online’ training on how to administer the vaccine.
Announcing the DES agreement yesterday evening, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said ‘a campaign of this scale will be a huge undertaking for practices already struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic, as well as supporting the large number of patients with other healthcare concerns’.
He said GPs will ‘want to protect as many of their patients as quickly as possible, doing so safely and focusing on those most in need first’ but that this will only be possible if ‘everyone is patient and understanding as practices embark on this unprecedented campaign’.
‘There must also be clear communication from the Government and NHS England, clarifying what patients can expect and when,’ he said.
Adding: ‘The campaign is likely to lead to changes in the way practices operate as they prioritise this vital work for our nation – but to be clear, all GP surgeries are open, as they have been throughout this pandemic.’
GPC executive member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni moved to reassure GP colleagues via Twitter, saying that GPs ‘can’t deliver the vaccination programme without deprioritising non-essential work/services’. He added that guidance on this would be ‘coming shortly’.
It comes as primary care minister Jo Churchill yesterday thanked GPs for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic, culminating the saga which saw GP practices accused of being ‘closed’ and not seeing patients in person where needed.