COVID-19 Booster & Flu Vaccination Programmes
Since the announcement that a COVID-19 Booster Vaccination programme will commence in September of this year, like many GP practices across the region, we have been working with our Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) colleagues to understand the programme requirements and the impact on the delivery of our core GP services.
We can now confirm that having given due consideration to all relevant factors, we have decided that we will not be taking part in the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme. During the final four months of 2021, we want to fully focus on the delivery of core GP services for our patients, along with the annual flu vaccination campaign.
We understand that some patients will have been expecting us to take part in the COVID-19 booster programme so it is important we explain the key reasons which have led us to reach this decision.
One of the conditions of taking part in the booster programme is that GP practices are required by NHS England to “provide assurance to their local CCG that they have capacity and the appropriate workforce resource to deliver phase 3 of the programme alongside the requirements of their core primary medical services contract”. Having explored a number of options, we are not able to provide such an assurance without impacting on our core services.
Demand for GP services is currently at an all-time high. By dedicating resources to the vaccination booster programme, we would create an even larger gap between our capacity and the current demand for GP services. As GP Partners, we do not believe it would be in the best interests of our patients, particularly those with chronic conditions whose ongoing care has perhaps been impacted the most over the last 18 months, if we were to reduce access to core services in order to deliver the boosters.
During the first phase of the vaccination roll out, we relied heavily on clinical and non-clinical volunteers like the majority of centres. Due to the national lockdown and furlough, these volunteers were able to cover a significant number of vaccination clinics for us. With the national picture now very different, we no longer have the ability to access volunteers in sufficient quantities to support a four-month programme starting in September.
We know from experience that it is highly unlikely we would be able to recruit and train sufficient numbers of staff to plan and run vaccination clinics before the programme commences in September.
Because of the characteristics of the COVID-19 vaccines, we are unable to guarantee that we could provide booster vaccines at each of our surgeries, meaning some patients would be required to travel.
As with many GP practices across the country, we have explored the potential to run the COVID-19 booster programme alongside our annual flu vaccination programme. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient detail and assurance that this would be practically possible, prior to the deadline for opting into the programme.
At the start of the vaccination programme in December of last year, the only way patients could access a COVID-19 vaccination was through their GP practice. We have administered more than 110,000 vaccinations across four sites in just six months. As a result, 96.6% of Lakeside patients in cohorts 1-9 have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. Over the course of this year, we have seen a huge, and welcome, expansion of the programme with mass vaccination sites, community pharmacies, mobile units and pop-up clinics all now providing access to vaccinations. With NHS England committing to an additional 1,000 community pharmacies also being brought on-line as part of the booster programme. Hence the need for GP practices to provide booster vaccinations is much less than was previously the case.
We have shared our reasons for not taking part in the booster programme with our CCG who are fully supportive of our position. We are now working closely with them to ensure that all of our eligible patients have easy access to a booster vaccine. Once these plans are finalised, we will share details through our usual channels with all patients.
As well as continuing to focus on the delivery of core services, we have commenced the planning for the annual flu vaccination programme which will begin in September. We will be in touch with eligible patients shortly with details of their appointment.
Thank you for your understanding.
Published: Aug 19, 2021