Practices have been reminded to keep GP records ‘up to date’ to help avoid confusion about which patients have been vaccinated against Covid, as seven large-scale vaccination centres join the programme.
In a bulletin sent to primary care staff yesterday (10 January), NHS England said ‘the system has been designed’ to ensure that invites for appointments at the seven new centres ‘should only go to patients who have not yet had their vaccine’ to ‘avoid duplication or confusion’.
But it added that the information on which patients have not been vaccinated is ‘drawn from GP records’, so it was therefore ‘important’ that practices ‘keep these as up to date as possible’.
The bulletin also said that in the event ‘any overlap does occur, whereby a patient already has an appointment booked at an LVC [local vaccination centre], they can disregard the letter’.
The seven large-scale vaccination centres opened across England today (11 January) and NHS England has said that more than 600,000 over 80s who live within a 45-minute car journey will be sent an invitation for an appointment.
The centres have been set up in London, Bristol, Surrey, Birmingham, Stevenage, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne.
However, some GPs have expressed concerns on social media about the launch of the centres and patient confusion.
Wyre Forest Health Partnership in Worcestershire tweeted that the process has been ‘really confusing for over 80s – most of whom we have already vaccinated or booked into PCN clinics’, and that the vaccination centre approach is not helpful for all areas.
Dr Joe McManners, a GP partner in Oxford, tweeted that he has been hearing reports that the letter has been causing confusion, adding that ‘mass vaccination centres should complement not distract from primary care centres’.
Meanwhile, the Merrywood Practice, Bristol, acknowledged that the system is confusing for patients and tweeted:
Janet Robson, director of primary healthcare Darlington, said the surrounding confusion has meant practices have been inundated with phone calls about the process, which ‘they know nothing about’ themselves.
Responding to a question about whether the invitation letters would be affected by possible delays at Royal Mail, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi told Wes Streeting, Labour MP, that the department will be working collaboratively to ensure they arrive on time.
Vaccination centres are ‘necessary’
In its primary care bulletin, NHS England said: ‘We appreciate this process is happening in parallel, with many local vaccination centres contacting patients but it is necessary to be able to drive through the vaccination programme at pace.’
It added that the initial sites were selected as they were among those ready to vaccinate large numbers of people quickly.
In an announcement issued today, NHS England also said that the centres are ‘an additional option for people’ and that they can instead choose to get vaccinated at one of their local vaccination sites, if that is more convenient for them.
Letters are being sent out to more than 600,000 people aged 80 who live up to a 45 minute drive from one of the new centres, inviting them to book an appointment, it added.
There are now almost 1,000 vaccination sites across England, with hundreds of GP sites and hospital services due to open this week, along with the first pharmacy-led pilot locations.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: ‘Increasing supplies means the NHS can open even more vaccination services and protect even more people this week.
‘While my NHS colleagues are working hard to ensure we can offer vaccines to all of those who would benefit most over the next month, at the same time as providing care for everyone who needs it, we need the public to help us.’
The seven new vaccination centres are:
• Excel Centre in London (London)
• Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West)
• Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East)
• Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands)
• Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England)
• Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West)
• The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne (North East and Yorkshire)