NHS England has written to GPs active within urgent care to ask them to add any spare capacity to support the emergency response over the coming weeks.
It said this could include GP out-of-hours as well as NHS 111 shifts, with clinician pay rates to be temporarily increased.
In a letter sent on Thursday last week (30 December), NHS England’s primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani called on primary care clinicians to come forward.
The letter, seen by Pulse, said that ‘the need for clinical support within [urgent and emergency care] services is immediate, and growing as a result of the Omicron variant’.
Dr Kanani said: ‘I would like to urge clinical colleagues who are providing support to these services to continue with this contribution over the coming weeks.
‘Where colleagues consider that they might have further capacity to support UEC services – additional to their contribution to the vaccine effort – I would encourage them to volunteer this capacity over the next few weeks.
‘This work can often be done remotely from home and can be for short periods of only 2 or 3 hours. Technical support to enable remote working will be provided.’
Dr Kanani added that while GPs are prioritising the Covid booster campaign, GPs choosing to work in NHS 111 services and IUC ‘will not be disadvantaged’.
‘Pay rates will be supplemented to ensure there is an appropriate level of remuneration,’ the letter said.
In a message sent with the letter, NHS England’s Integrated Care Team told ICU lead commissioners to ‘work with your IUC providers to determine what, if any, additional hourly top up is required in your locality in order to maintain appropriate clinician staffing levels in IUC services.
‘We do not expect the uplift in pay rates to exceed £20 per hour.’
Before Christmas, NHS England also asked GPs to step up pulse oximetry services as a ‘Covid-19 response priority’ alongside the vaccination programme.
And workload prioritisation guidance from the BMA and RCGP said GPs need to decide for themselves what workload to pause to make time for Covid booster jabs.
GP vaccination centres were paid an enhanced fee of £20 per Covid jab between 25 December and 3 January.
Note: This article was updated at 16.15 on 5 January after NHS England told Pulse it was only targeting GPs who were already active within urgent care services.