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Government sets January deadline for extended booster campaign

by Jess Hacker
1 December 2021

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NHS England has increased the standard payment for Covid vaccines to £15 per vaccination, in an effort to incentivise GP practices and pharmacies to offer all boosters by January.

It follows the move to extend the booster programme to all adults over 18 in response to the Omicron variant.

Standard Covid vaccines will now be £15 until January, with a £30 premium payment for vaccinations to housebound patients.

Previously, the payment has been £12.58 per vaccination, with an additional £10 for those delivered to housebound patients.

Speaking during a briefing last night (30 November), Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHSE also said that the CQC has also agreed to continue to pause GP practice inspections, adding that they were looking at ‘cutting other burdens’ for GPs.

She also said the NHS will need to ‘expand vaccination capacity right across’ the system.

NHSE is now looking at how it can help primary care staff ‘to do even more jabs by cutting other burdens on them to free up clinicians time’.

She added that the 15-minute wait time post-vaccination would also be reviewed and potentially scrapped in order to allow smaller size centres – such as community pharmacies – to be able to vaccinate more people.

More guidance needed

However, practice managers attending Management in Practice’s Newcastle event (30 November) expressed some concern over the amount of information currently available about how practices will cope with the extra workload.

Kay Keane, practice business manager at Alvanley Family Practice in Stockport, said that the extended campaign would benefit from an opportunistic approach to jabs but that the 15-minute wait makes .

‘We’re exhausted in the practice and it would be really difficult to pick up a vaccination programme that needs a 15-minute wait per patient,’ she said.

Ms Keane, who is also director of the Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM), said that her practice sees around ‘50 patients face-to-face a day’ and that ‘a proportion will need a third – or even a – first Covid jab.’

However, unlike with flu which can be offered opportunistically, the 15-minute wait makes it much harder to do so for Covid boosters.

She also flagged that it is currently not known if QOF will be frozen as happened during the initial phases of the campaign.

An NHSE spokesperson told Management in Practice that it had no further information regarding how practices were expected to deliver a significantly larger number of boosters than was first apparent – and with fewer practices signed up to jab patients.

Meanwhile, other managers were confident that the current PCN model would be able to deliver the vaccines, but were concerned about the impact on their staff’s workload.

Rebecca Graham, a practice manager at Heaton Road Surgery in Newcastle, said the that the way the booster programme had been delivered up until now had taken ‘the pressure off’ the practice.

‘We’ve been working through the pandemic for so long. We’ve learnt an awful lot and can manage much better.’

Grace Bonners, another manager at the practice, said. ‘We know the system works now.’

But the extension could risk upping workload across the PCN.

‘We have a lot to do about patient education,’ she said. ‘The Government must communicate to the public that the booster programme may impact availability.

‘They have to tell them the truth.’

It comes after GP practices are reporting losing multiple frontline staff members ‘every week’ in Northern Ireland, due to the pressures and abuse faced by the sector.