Following advice from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has announced that all adults in England aged 18 and over will be offered a Covid19 booster jab by the end of January.
With this, the government announced payments to GPs, community pharmacies and primary care staff will increase to £15 a dose on weekdays, with an additional £5 a shot offered on Sundays (when community pharmacies are not normally open).
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the increase will ensure that GPs are “properly rewarded for their efforts”.
“Practices need more time, not money” to deliver the jabs
However, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said that practices need more time, not money to deliver the jabs.
Dr Farah Jameel, GPC chair at the BMA, said: “GPs and their teams will always be there for their patients and their communities, but will need substantial support if we are to further accelerate the booster campaign.
“At present, practices physically don’t have the staff or spare capacity to manage the additional numbers of patients expected to come forward for boosters alongside all the non-Covid care and assessments their contracts have bound them to do, so the funding, whilst welcome, will do little to help alleviate current pressures. With a finite number of staff and hours in the day there is a limit to what practices can achieve and the Government and NHS England needs to be honest with the public about this.”
Dr Jameel said that if the government and health service want more practices to get involved with the booster programme, they need to be “freed from bureaucracy and lower-priority, centrally imposed targets – releasing time and staff so practice teams can get jabs into arms as quickly as possible.”
The government is working on freeing up GP time
So far, the NHS chief executive has announced that the CQC will pause its routine inspections on general practice to free up clinicians’’ time, and NHS England is looking at scrapping the 15-minute wait.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, has said the government is currently working on an initiative to free up GP time, but this is yet to be announced by the NHS.
Javid added that the government is prepared to revisit current targets, such as asking GPs to see more patients face-to-face, in order to deliver the booster programme as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In response to these reports, Dr Jameel said: “It’s promising that NHS England have this evening alluded to alleviating the burdens on practices to help free-up more time for them to deliver boosters, but we urgently need more detail and mostly importantly, action. I have every confidence in GPs and their teams stepping up to the plate to support their communities at this great time of need and national effort, but we need to be supported so we can care for our patients."