NHS England has requested a swift acceleration of vaccinations in care homes in response to rapidly increasing Covid outbreaks.
GPs have been instructed to complete all care home vaccinations by the end of this week “wherever possible” or by 24 January at the latest, and the military is on standby to support the programme.
A letter from NHS England primary care leaders Nikita Kanani and Ed Waller to primary care vaccination teams said GPs should ensure the first vaccine dose is given to all care home residents in their area “by the end of this week”, or, where this is not possible, by 24 January “at the latest”, and advised that army doctors should be brought into care homes, if needed, to meet the deadline.
‘For those areas with significant gaps in their projected care home vaccination coverage, and where additional support is required, there is also the option to make use of military clinical teams, which are coordinated at a national level’ the letter stated.
NHS England had originally said that GPs would need to vaccinate almost 250,000 residents across an estimated 11,000 care homes in England by the end of January, however the rising number of Covid cases in care homes has led to the deadline being brought forward.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 27.6% of all care home deaths in England and Wales can now be attributed to Covid-19.
In first week of January, 824 people died in a care home, the highest figure since May.
In the letter, Dr Nikita Kanani said: ‘With the increased rate and spread of infections, the need to ensure that these cohorts are vaccinated as the top priority is higher than ever. For every 20 vaccinations in the care homes resident cohort, one death is potentially preventable’.
The NHS will triple the bonus paid to doctors for every jab carried out before next Monday to £30. Doses administered next week will attract £20. One senior GP told the Guardian outbreaks were threatening to slow down delivery of the jab and that vaccination had become “a race against the virus”.
The latest incentive is an increase from the £10 originally planned for each vaccine dose in care homes, on top of the £12.58 service fee. The £10 incentive will continue to apply to any doses delivered in care homes after 24 January, as well as to second doses.
The letter added that, in areas with “significant gaps” in care home vaccine provision, military clinical teams will be able to support vaccination delivery.
The letter said the Ministry of Defence has established a “Vaccine Quick Reaction Force”, providing three teams to each of the seven NHS regions. The teams will be stepped up locally when there is a surge in vaccine demand across any of the NHS vaccination centres. Each team is made up of a clinical lead, two registered healthcare workers and three vaccinators, who are either combat medical technicians or healthcare assistants.
The letter also added that vaccinations must still be carried out in care homes where there are covid outbreaks :“Whilst vaccination against covid may be temporarily deferred in some individuals eg. acutely unwell or still within four weeks of onset of covid symptoms, all other staff and care home residents in a care home where an outbreak is occurring must receive prompt covid vaccination. There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of covid-19 infection, or with detectable covid-19 antibody.”