The BMA’s GP Committee has agreed plans with NHS England for a Covid-19 vaccination DES to be rolled out for GP practices for 1 December, it has announced.
The BMA said that GPs are ‘absolutely the right people’ to lead the campaign to protect patients from ‘this deadly virus’, adding that practices ‘can choose’ whether to take part in the vaccination programme.
Management in Practice’s sister title, Pulse, exclusively revealed on Tuesday (3 November) that a Covid vaccination DES was being discussed for a December rollout.
Full details on the DES will be published today (6 November), according to the announcement, but the BMA said it is expected practices ‘will work together in their local area, initially with vaccinations taking place at one site – most likely a nominated practice’.
Writing directly to BMA members following the announcement last night, GP Committee chair Dr Vautrey said: ‘Because of the unprecedented nature of this programme, the timescales are very challenging and practices will need to make decisions quickly, not least whether to take up the Enhanced Service, and if so to prepare for potential implementation from 1 December.
‘It may be that this implementation date is delayed due to vaccine supply, but we must be prepared to ensure our patients can access the vaccine as soon as it is available. It will not be an easy task, and we will require much greater support from NHSEI, CCGs and local health providers, but it is the right decision that general practice leads this programme.’
Meanwhile, in a press release, Dr Vautrey said: ‘GPs and their teams are uniquely placed to ensure that their communities are properly protected from this deadly virus. And with their proven track record in delivering widespread vaccination campaigns, such as this year’s flu programme, they are absolutely the right people to be leading this Covid vaccination drive.’
Referencing the ‘complex storage conditions’ – Pulse also revealed one of the two vaccines being prepared for UK rollout needs to be stored at -70C – Dr Vautrey added that the BMA is ‘under no illusion that this will be an easy task’.
He also acknowledged that ‘a campaign of this scale will be a huge undertaking for practices already struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic, as well as supporting the large number of patients with other healthcare concerns’.
‘GPs and their teams want to protect as many of their patients as quickly as possible, doing so safely and focusing on those most in need first. We can only do this with the help and support of local partners, and if everyone is patient and understanding as practices embark on this unprecedented campaign,’ he said.
To facilitate that there ‘must also be clear communication from the Government and NHS England, clarifying what patients can expect and when’, Dr Vautrey said.
‘The campaign is likely to lead to changes in the way practices operate as they prioritise this vital work for our nation – but to be clear, all GP surgeries are open, as they have been throughout this pandemic.’
‘Practices can choose to take part in the programme and NHS England will need to work with us to ensure that suitable arrangements will be made for all eligible patients to be vaccinated and that we have the flexibility necessary to meet local needs,’ the BMA GP Committee chair added.
Pulse’s revelation made a splash across the UK media landscape earlier in the week, including being reported on the front pages of the Mirror, the i, the Metro and the Express newspapers.
Vaccines pre-procured by the UK Government are already being manufactured, with the NHS set to be able to start administering them as soon as they are approved for use, the chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce told MPs and Lords on Wednesday.
This includes four million doses of the UK leading vaccine candidate, and 10m doses of a vaccine being developed in the US, which should be ready to go ‘by the end of the year’.
A version of this story first appeared on our sister title Pulse.