I’m broadly in favour of the Government’s decision to further roll out the vaccine booster programme. But there are still two nagging issues for me – and, for once, NHS England and the Government are not entirely to blame.
The first is that I am still not sure how useful a booster campaign in England and the UK will be without a concerted effort to get the whole world vaccinated. The rise of the Omicron variant is not unexpected, and will continue happening while so much of the world remains unvaccinated. South Africa, for all its (actual) world beating infection control apparatus, still has only 42% of its population vaccinated.
In fairness to our public health officials, they seem to understand this. Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jonathan Van-Tam spoke in depth this week about how many vaccines the UK has sent around the work, and the figures are significant – 30 million doses already and another 40 million in the pipeline. But it does feel like there needs to be a multilateral effort – this is in everyone’s interest.
The second nagging issue I have is closer to home. NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard announced the increase in payments to GPs and at the same time acknowledged that the burden on GPs would need to be addressed. Health secretary Sajid Javid reiterated the point this morning.
But there is still little detail about what burdens will be reduced, other than the numbers of CQC inspections. Which means it still feels like a bit of an afterthought. GP workload has to be the first thought when committing to such a programme (and the obvious measure is to stop pushing the line that patients should get face-to-face appointments on demand).
I am still not holding out much hope that any measures to reduce GPs’ workload will be useful. But we can at least take comfort that they are acknowledging this is an issue.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.