Exclusive GPs should not be the ‘main providers’ of Covid vaccinations, according to more than half of GPs responding to a major Pulse survey.
The survey of 761 GPs in England revealed that 53% believe GPs should not be the main providers of Covid vaccinations.
Less than a third (29%) of respondents said they should, while the remainder (18%) said they didn’t know.
NHS England has said that GP-led Covid vaccination sites will be able to continue delivering jabs until September if they have ‘sufficient capacity’, although some may be asked to suspend the service if they are not delivering ‘value for money’.
But GPs taking part in the survey raised concerns around funding for the service and practice teams already being ‘swamped’ with work.
Manchester GP partner Dr Vivian Wilkinson told Pulse: ‘From a patient’s perspective, it’s a good idea but for a GP, we have so much work to do already, with a backlog of cases due to the pandemic.
‘Trying to coordinate vaccinations is quite difficult, but if the Covid vaccination can be modified and given with the flu jab, and it doesn’t need the 15-minute observation afterwards, then it would make sense. We’d need additional funding, though, for staff.’
And Stockport GP partner Dr James Higgins warned that the financial impact of leading Covid vaccinations could affect GPs’ ability to offer services to other patients.
He said: ‘We will inevitably be tasked with vaccinating the harder-to-reach – housebound, elderly, multimorbid, care homes – so to resource other services equally for vaccinating the “low-hanging fruit” increases the risk of our campaigns to vaccinate the complex running at a financial loss, impacting on our ability to offer services to other patients.’
However, those in support of GP practices being the main providers of Covid vaccinations pointed to the fact GPs already routinely provide vaccinations against a range of illnesses and are ‘the first choice’ for most patients.
Doncaster GP partner Dr David Coleman said: ‘We currently deliver seasonal flu, baby immunisations and travel vaccinations. As long as Covid vaccination is well-funded and is something practices or PCNs have a degree of choice over, it is something we could accommodate.’
Portfolio GP Dr Christine Clayton added: ‘We know how to run an efficient and organised vaccine programme.
‘We’ve been doing it for flu for years. We are far cheaper than pharmacies and the first choice for most patients.’
The GP Covid vaccine enhanced service was due to expire at the end of this month, but it was last week extended until September.
NHS England had previously indicated that it was expected to be extended – although it told GPs that delivery must not impact on ‘core’ GP services and said it ‘anticipated’ some GP-led vaccination sites would ‘deliver significantly fewer vaccinations or hibernate over the next few months’.
But health secretary Sajid Javid has said a ‘national vaccination service’ is required to ensure GPs are not asked to stop routine care again.
NHS England has said that PCN vaccination sites are ‘not expected’ to lead the spring Covid booster jab programme or the rollout for five-to-11-year-olds, due to ongoing workforce pressures.