Some GPs opt out of Covid vaccine rollout over ‘workload’ pressures

11 December 2020, 18:13

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has already been rolled out at hospitals across the UK.
The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has already been rolled out at hospitals across the UK. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

‘Dozens’ of GP surgeries in England will not offer the coronavirus vaccine next week due to “workload and workforce challenges”.

Practices are due to begin vaccinations this week after the Pfizer/BioNTech jab was first given to patients at hospital sites on Tuesday.

However, the Guardian reports that dozens of GP surgeries, serving around 100,000 patients, have chosen not to join the vaccination plan.

This decision is reportedly due to concerns over high workloads, staff shortages and the impact on patients if other services had to be cut back.

NHS England have said all patients should be checked on for 15 minutes after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which has increased the workload on surgeries offering the vaccine.

The new rule was brought in after two nurses had an allergic reaction to the vaccine. They are recovering well.

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GPs are already dealing with high work loads amidst the pandemic, including the largest flu vaccination programme in the UK's history.

“We are already struggling to staff our surgeries, so how are we going to provide the staff to do the vaccinations? And how can we scale back other services, to free up staff time to vaccinate people, without compromising patients’ safety?” one Manchester GP told the Guardian.

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The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said while there has been an "excellent response" from many practices, it understands why some "have felt like they cannot sign up".

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the RCGP, said: "It is going to be an enormous challenge given the workload and workforce challenges GPs and our teams are currently working under”.

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Around 280 primary care settings had been identified for the first phase of the primary care rollout and were preparing to vaccinate patients early next week, Prof Marshall said.

If someone is unable to get a jab at their local GP, it is understood they will be able to receive it at a hospital or, from the end of January, at pharmacies.

At a Downing Street press conference on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed vaccinations will begin next week at “GP-led sites” and “by Christmas” in care homes.

"We will keep on expanding this roll-out to reach more and more people,” he added.

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"As more vaccines come on stream, we will open vaccination centres in larger centres like conference halls and sports stadia next year and that's when most people can expect to get their jabs.

"When the time comes, the NHS will get in touch with you, so you don't have to come forward and get in contact with the NHS."

A spokeswoman for the NHS said: "As set out and supported by the BMA, general practices will deliver the vaccine from nominated sites within primary care networks, where it is safe and practical to do so, and there has been a fantastic response from GPs across England signing up to do so.

"Given the well-known logistical challenges of delivering this particular vaccine, GPs like others across the NHS are now responding rapidly to make arrangements for this to happen."

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