England’s national GP Committee is calling for an investigation into what they allege as “mismanagement” of this year’s winter Covid and Flu vaccination programmes, which they claim has caused widespread confusion among the profession, and continues to seriously impact upon patient safety.
Last month, it was announced by NHS England that the programmes, which commence each September and intend to vaccinate as many vulnerable patients as possible ahead of winter, would be delayed until October. With practices having already planned and booked vaccine clinics many months in advance, this threatened to cause mass disruption necessitating many hundreds of thousands of appointments to be rearranged to accommodate the Government’s new timetable.
Although BMA lobbying prompted NHS England to eventually make a U-turn on this, it came with a caveat for the Covid vaccine: that GPs would have to deliver it before the end of October, or face being paid a significantly reduced fee per jab after that date – despite the emergence of a new Covid variant.
Reducing the Covid vaccination fee by 25% means that for many practices, offering the Covid vaccine will become financially unviable from 1st November.
At a meeting of GPC England today, the committee passed a motion brought by members calling for an urgent investigation into the mismanagement of this year’s vaccination campaign, and what can be done to prevent such disruption from happening again.1
Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of GPC England at the BMA, said: “The last few weeks have been incredibly challenging for GPs, practice managers and their teams who, on top of managing rising patient demand, have been trying to keep up with conflicting instructions from NHS England about this year’s Flu and Covid vaccination programme.
“The campaign is a huge logistical operation, which practices plan many months in advance, so to throw plans into disarray with days to go, creating unnecessary additional workload and patient concern was incredibly frustrating – made all the worse by a refusal to offer the right financial support modelled as cost effective by the Government’s own Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations.
“While practices have been able to keep their original vaccine clinics in place, the reduction of the fee for the Covid jab from November onwards means that it won’t be financially viable for practices to continue, potentially putting vulnerable patients at risk. With a new variant now circulating, the profession needs this addressed as a matter of urgency.
“It’s clear that the direction for this year’s vaccination programme was not properly thought through, and we need a thorough explanation as to why. Most importantly, GPC England’s call for an investigation must prevent such mismanagement from happening again. At a time of immense pressure on the health service, we need NHS England to work with us and support us, not make things harder and put patient safety at risk as a result.”