The addition of 1.7 million people to the national shielding list, with more than 800,000 to be added to priority vaccination groups, is ‘already significantly impacting’ practices, the Institute for General Practice Management (IGPM) has said.
The expansion of the list was announced last week (16 February) after a new risk prediction tool QCovid identified more people who may be at higher risk from Covid-19.
The tool, developed by Oxford University and the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), considers risk factors beyond health, including ethnicity, weight and deprivation.
Nicola Davies, practice manager at the Roseland Surgeries in Cornwall, and IGPM co-founder, told Management in Practice that the increase in patients advised to shield is ‘already significantly impacting’ on practice workload.
‘Booking appointments for these patients to get their first dose of Covid vaccine is going to cause issues, especially for those networks who might not have a vaccine delivery scheduled for a couple of weeks – these patients are now understandably anxious to receive a vaccine ASAP.
‘We are undoubtedly going to have to put on more clinics, but we need to ensure that we can get the vaccine supplied to us in a timely manner in order to do this.’
Ms Davies also questioned what practices should say to these patients now ont the shielding list while waiting to hear whether they can get extra vaccines doses.
‘Although there is potential to request additional vaccines, it’s virtually impossible to achieve this,’ she added.
According to the Government, the QCovid model considered the non-health factors of people who caught coronavirus and suffered negative outcomes during the first wave.
Around 4 million people have now been told to shield in total.
Ensuring patient care
Practice managers have also reported receiving an increase in calls from patients expressing concern about the change to their priority status and their addition to the shielding list.
Ann Stewart, practice manager at St Gabriel’s Medical Centre, Prestwich, said: ‘We have had some patients ringing in wondering why suddenly they moved on to a list that they didn’t expect.’
She added that ‘with some gentle discussion, they were quite happy to be booked in for the vaccination’, and that her network has received support for dealing with extra bookings.
‘But we’ve also had a lot of support from the CCG and the booking management services for us to send our lists to them for them to contact [patients] if we’ve been a bit stretched ringing other patients to get their first vaccine,’ she said.
Meanwhile, Claire Deare, practice manager from Saxon Spires Practice, Northamptonshire, said the practice has also received new queries from patients who are now being prioritised.
‘We have had patient queries about this, but we are receiving so many queries about the vaccination programme anyway,’ she said, adding that ‘this requires a GP conversation, so is having a small impact on demand for appointments’.
And – although Ms Deare believes there is sufficient capacity between the PCN Local Vaccination Site (LVS) and the nearest Mass Vaccination Site (MVS) to immunise additional patients – she said: ‘There has been some frustration that we cannot see who has been invited to the MVS, meaning many patients have been invited by both, which is inefficient.’