Exclusive The push for GPs to see patients face to face will not be paused to allow practices to focus on delivering Covid booster jabs, Pulse has learned.
And NHS England told Pulse that it would not be asking ICSs to put GP access improvement plans on hold during the accelerated booster programme.
A spokesperson said that while NHS England and the Government have been clear that delivering boosters is the priority for GPs at the moment, many of the access measures are useful for managing demand.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) also told Pulse that the target to offer boosters to all eligible adults by the end of the year does not change its expectations for GPs to increase face-to-face access.
A spokesperson also said the Government will not ask patients to reduce demand for GP services during the booster programme, like it had done in March last year – when it urged the public to avoid seeing their GP in person and to consider whether their appointments could be postponed.
The GP access plan had said practices should work out the ‘optimal blend’ of face-to-face appointments, alongside remote consultations, ‘wherever these are clinically warranted, taking account of patient preferences’.
Explaining its position, NHS England told Pulse that although the national effort at the moment is to get all eligible adults a booster jab, it still wants people to come forward for other care.
GPs will use their clinical judgement to decide whether patients need to be seen, as NHS England wants to avoid the situation that arose last year when people did not come forward when they should have done, a spokesperson said.
The new guidance also stressed that ‘whatever steps we take to manage workload, we must reassure the public that general practice remains open and that patients will be seen face to face where it is clinically appropriate’.
NHS England had promised that the BMA and RCGP would provide ‘additional prioritisation guidance’ after asking GPs to prioritise the Covid vaccination campaign over routine care until the New Year.
Earlier this month, Pulse revealed that there would be no change to the Government’s GP access plans despite the introduction of plan B restrictions. At the time, GPs told Pulse the decision was ‘barmy’, ‘unhelpful’ and ‘doesn’t make sense’.