The most important face-to-face GP appointment patients will have in the next few weeks will be getting jabbed, Sajid Javid has said.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, presenter Justin Webb challenged the health secretary on how the target of providing boosters to all adults by the end of this year fit in with Mr Javid’s calls for GPs to do more routine face-to-face appointments.
Mr Javid seemed to suggest that the need for more routine face-to-face appointments was now deprioritised due to the importance of the vaccination programme.
The health secretary was on the Today programme to discuss the Government and NHS England asking GP practices to prioritise booster jabs over routine appointments as of today.
Mr Webb said: ‘The idea of face to face appointments, which of course was a big controversy a few months ago, that has gone now? If you want a face-to-face appointment, you may not be able to get it?’
Mr Javid replied: ‘Yes, for the next two to three weeks, this is the new national mission and the face-to-face appointment that will be the most important with any GP is while you’re getting jabbed.’
Mr Javid said the fact that GPs must temporarily suspend other clinical work was ‘one of the reasons [the Government] didn’t do this before’ and that it was ‘not an easy decision to make’.
The Department of Health and Social Care said last week that plan B does not change the Government’s expectations on GPs to increase face-to-face access in line with Winter Access Fund plans.
Mr Javid also said extending the booster programme means ‘not just we have new sites, but we extend the opening hours, we open the sites seven days a week, we ask GPs and pharmacists to do more’.
But he gave Mr Webb his assurance that anyone with symptoms of cancer will ‘remain a priority’ and still be able to be seen within two weeks.
‘That will be completely unaffected by this new mission,’ Mr Javid said.
It comes as MHRA last week gave a ‘clear steer’ that the requirement to keep patients for a 15-minute observation after mRNA Covid vaccination is not being relaxed ‘at this time’.
As of Monday morning, there was no further guidance for GPs on how they should deliver the vaccination booster programme.