‘Serious concerns’ about autumn booster workload and funding, warn GP leaders

GP leaders have raised concerns about the financial and workload implications of the autumn booster programme due to start next month.

They said that GPs will ‘be wondering if the numbers add up’ and warned that ‘something will have to give’.

Last month, NHS England set out that GP-led sites will be paid a £10.06 item of service (IoS) fee for each vaccine administered – down from £12.58 – with a £10 fee remaining in place for each housebound patient.

Now the BMA has said it has ‘serious concerns’ about the rollout and warned that the booster programme must not be delivered ‘on the cheap’.

In a statement issued yesterday, BMA GP Committee clinical and prescribing policy lead Dr Preeti Shukla welcomed the news that Moderna’s new bivalent vaccine adapted to tackle the Omicron variant will be delivered as part of the autumn programme.

She said that the programme is ‘essential to preventing another outbreak in the winter.’

But she added: ‘However, with the current well-documented pressures on GP practices and the reduction in the funding for the delivery of these vaccines, we have serious concerns about the rollout. 

‘Payment to GPs for delivery of vaccines has dropped 20% since last year’s rollout while the costs for GP practices have only rocketed in the meantime.’

She added: ‘This vaccine will require freezing and refrigerating, an ever more expensive operation as energy costs rise. The new Moderna vaccine only strengthens the case for returning payments to last year’s level rather than trying to deliver a booster programme on the cheap.

‘GP practices, while glad to hear of a new vaccine to add to their arsenal, will nevertheless be wondering if the numbers add up as they face a difficult autumn and winter.’

Previously, the BMA said GPs should review whether the reduced fee for delivering Covid jabs from September impact their ‘ability to undertake the enhanced service’.

Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage also said that the LMC has ‘substantial concerns’ over the expectation that London practices simultaneously deliver Covid, flu and polio jabs this autumn.

She said: ‘All GPs recognise the importance of vaccination and want to see patients protected, but we have substantial concerns over the scale and timing of expecting London general practice to deliver Covid, flu and polio jabs simultaneously.

‘More than a decade of under-resourcing needs to be addressed if there is to be capacity for GPs to take on three large-scale vaccination campaigns without having an impact on the delivery of the Government’s stated main priorities of clearing the care backlog and further increasing appointment availability.’

She added that ‘something will have to give’ between the vaccinations and delivering ‘routine appointments’ in the capital.

She said: ‘With the current workforce crisis, there are just not enough GPs and practice nurses to do the day job. 

‘Prioritising urgent public health vaccinations means something will have to give between routine appointments and vaccinating several million Londoners at pace. GPs and their teams need help to disseminate that message with patients to ensure they are not left to bear the brunt of public frustration.’

The LMC previously expressed concerns about the ‘scale and timing’ of the urgent polio booster campaign announced last week in Greater London.

Pulse approached NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for comment.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘The NHS will set out plans for the autumn campaign shortly with planning already underway.’

Covid booster vaccines will be extended to people aged 50 and over this autumn alongside other at-risk groups, following a final recommendation from the JCVI last month.

Meanwhile, the RCGP has also said that general practice needs urgent support ahead of winter, including an immediate reduction of bureaucracy.


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