I had been going to explain that, despite the posturing, petulance and prevaricating around our role in the Great Covid Jab Project, I’m actually keen to get on and muck in. After all, I want to be able to say that, when science saved the masses and consigned coronavirus to microbiological history, I was at the sharp end. Or, rather, at the less pointy, plunger end.
And I had planned to suggest that the only bit needing ironing out for GPs is the tension between dull old job versus heroic new role. In that, on the one hand, we’re being told that it’s all hands to the pump and that, to quote the notice letter: ‘While urgent care will need to continue … this programme will be the top priority.’ And on the other, in the NHSE-scripted collaboration agreement, we’re supposed to agree that: ‘We acknowledge that nothing in this Agreement is intended to vary, relax or waive any rights or obligations contained in our primary medical services contracts.’
And in fact, I am going to say all that, but now with an increasing sense of urgency and desperation. Because, as of last night, I discovered something unbelievable: the Patient Group Directions/National Protocol to enable us to vaccinate en masse are – get this – NOT READY. So scientists can warp speed vaccine development beyond our wildest dreams while bureaucrats can’t find the time to produce and legally box-tick a formality document that no one is going to read anyway?
This means that, for an interim period, we have to go down the Patient Specific Directions route. I won’t bore you with the technical detail. The upshot is that the vaccinating process will be slower, more cumbersome and stupidly reliant on the presence of prescribers – two per pod according to some hurriedly updated guidance.
That causes big problems. Reduced throughput and potential vaccine wastage, for a start, although these can probably be worked around. But also doctors being dragged, in significant numbers, from their usual work to that sharp end of the process, whether they like it or not.
If that hits us GPs then we have to point out that we’re good, but not so good that we can be in two places at once. Something has to give, and that has to be the day job. Specifically, all routine work, income protected. Enough of the vague and contradictory messages. Do it now, NHSE, officially. Or it’ll be the entire programme, not just the vaccine, on ice.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield