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Booster campaign reaches half of those eligible as Covid cases break 12-week high

by Jess Hacker
18 October 2021

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More than half of those eligible for a Covid booster shot in England have received one as of this weekend, official data shows, as the UK recorded its highest number of daily Covid cases in 12 weeks.

New data collected and published by NHS England has revealed that as of 17 October, 3,596,683 people had received a booster jab since GP practice and vaccination sites began administering booster shots last month (16 September).

Currently, around 6.5 million people in England are able to receive a booster shot.

NHSE had confirmed last week that more than a third of eligible health and care workers had also received a third vaccine dose.

However, the milestone comes days after the UK recorded 45,066 daily cases, its highest daily figure since 20 July. As of yesterday (17 October), that number stands at 45,140.

Additional data, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday (15 October), revealed that around 890,000 people in England, or one-in-60, had Covid-19 during the week ending 9 October.

NHS Providers told Management in Practice that the high level of uptake has made a ‘real and positive’ impact, but that the virus’ high circulation in communities means ‘there is a continuing risk’ from the disease.

‘The NHS is already working under intense pressures, to recover waiting lists and deal with increased demand for emergency care, while dealing with severe staff shortages,’ Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said.

‘Added to this, trusts are also facing their first winter with both flu and COVID-19 in circulation, as well as other infectious diseases, such as RSV and norovirus.’

Meanwhile, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty similarly warned that the upcoming winter season was going to be ‘exceptionally difficult’ for the NHS, with general practice ‘absolutely at the forefront’.

Speaking at the annual conference of the RCGPs in Liverpool last week, he said that this would be the case ‘irrespective of whether we have a relatively low but non-trivial amount of Covid’ or a winter surge similar to last year.

It comes as practices have been urged to cut social distancing in their surgeries down from 2 metres to 1 metre, by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), in line with wider measures by NHSE to increase the number of face-to-face appointments they offer to patients.

The measures include the news that practices that do not reach pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments by November will not receive any funding from the Winter Access Fund and will instead be offered ‘support to improve’.

There are also plans to take ‘immediate’ action against the 20% of practices with the lowest face-to-face appointment levels.

The Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) branded it as an ‘arbitrary’ move that ‘will penalise practices for being in the “bottom 20%” when their access may be at an acceptable level’.