Should GP’s get back to being … GP’s?

Several NHS organisations say there is now a strong case for many GP sites to stop vaccinating to enable them to step up other services, with concerns about untreated health problems building up in recent months.

One ICS leader here in the South of England called for urgent clarity from the Nation Health Service Executive on its view about the mix of vaccine centres to be used for the next phase saying it would be best for “GPs to get back to being GPs”, with a shift towards mass centres (now formally known as “vaccination centres”) and community pharmacies.

One local trust leader involved called for “urgent agreement” on the respective roles of GP/PCN sites, mass vaccination centres and pharmacists, saying the current approach would soon come apart. The source questioned whether GP sites were “the most cost-effective way”, and “who is undertaking the core GP work”. Another ICS lead said some larger PCN operations could carry on with other services while vaccinating, but for some practices, it displaced core work, so they may need to stop.

GP sites could be asked to give a second dose to the older and high-risk groups who they have already vaccinated once, while under-50s are sent elsewhere, several sources said. It is unclear in the current GP enhanced service contract for vaccination whether their role would continue for all cohorts.

Empty centres

Meanwhile, mass vaccination centres in many parts of England have been running well below capacity in recent weeks, because people are not booking into them, leaving those involved frustrated that they are missing the chance to vaccinate faster, and wasting the time of staff and volunteers.

A senior figure at one centre said  GPs and local commissioners were heavily pushing the PCN sites, and the government should do a better job of promoting the offer at mass centres, as well as allowing them more flexibility to move onto cohorts ahead of primary care and to vaccinate people from outside their immediate patch. It is understood they are generally not permitted to book people from outside their ICS area.

“There are empty NHS vaccination centres around the country,” the person said. “GPs are used to running big flu vaccination programmes. But I question whether we are now taking a bit too much from their day job.”

However, a local GP leader following the issue argued mass centres should not be opened while supply is tight to PCNs which could deliver a lot more. He said:

“Dragging people from disparate areas into mass vaccination centres, even socially distanced, is at odds with the core message of ‘don’t travel’. I suspect… the cost per jab is lower in GPs/PCNs than in vaccination centres.”

An NHSE spokesman said: “NHS teams around the country, working closely with local authorities and other key community partners, are working flat out to deliver the largest vaccination programme in NHS history, and with supply the limiting factor, vaccine distribution is quite rightly co-ordinated so that doses can be directed across the country where they are most needed to target people most at risk, which means the most vulnerable people are protected first.”


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