GP practices were left fielding ‘a large number’ of patient queries after the Northern Irish Government decided all 65-69s should get their Covid jab at hospital sites.
The Department of Health decided last week that hospital trust-led vaccination centres would take over vaccinating those aged 65-69, leaving GP practices to focus on those aged over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
In a BMA bulletin published on 29 January, the NI GP Committee said it has heard that the Covid-19 vaccination programme has been ‘changing rapidly and becoming increasingly challenging’ across the country.
It added that removing the 65-69-year-old cohort from general practice has ‘caused confusion with the public and resulted with large numbers of queries to practices’.
However, the Department of Health has said this ‘twin track approach’ will ‘help accelerate NI’s vaccination programme’ by ensuring those aged 65-69 get vaccinated in line with the other eligible groups.
Earlier this week it also announced a special telephone vaccination booking line for the 65-69 age group as an alternative for those without access to the online system, which has been used to make 100,000 appointments within five days.
BMA NI GP Committee chair Dr Alan Stout told Pulse: ‘When it was announced, a lot of patients would have contacted their practice to query about it.’
But he added that that had been mostly in ‘the initial stages’ and had ‘died down a bit now’.
‘The actual outcome will be that we’ll get a large group of people vaccinated much, much quicker than they otherwise would have been,’ he acknowledged regarding the Government’s new system.
In England, GP practice phone lines became ‘jammed’ with patient enquiries after the Government publicly announced it was expanding the cohorts for Covid vaccinations last month.