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GP presence ‘not essential’ at Covid vaccination sites, says NHSE

by Costanza Pearce
10 March 2021

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PCN Covid vaccination sites are no longer legally required to have a GP present at all times, NHS England has said.

At the start of the vaccine rollout, GPs were told there was ‘a requirement for a GP to be available on site for each vaccination session/clinic’.

But in an update to the programme’s standard operating procedures yesterday, NHS England said a GP presence is ‘not an essential legal requirement’ anymore, provided other staff ‘have the relevant skills’ and are working under a patient group direction (PGD).

The document said: ‘It is expected that the majority of vaccinations will be delivered by healthcare professionals under a PGD or by lay vaccinators under the Covid-19 National Protocol. 

‘If other healthcare professionals have the relevant skills and are working under a PGD, the presence of GPs is not an essential legal requirement.’

PCNs ‘should determine the most appropriate clinical supervision required, based on local circumstances’, it added.

However, NHS England said many sites ‘have found that the presence of a GP is helpful in a “Clinical Director” type capacity to assist with consent and complex patients’. 

And it added that GP practices ‘remain responsible for the conditions set out in the Enhanced Service’, while site clinical leads are responsible for infection prevention and control unless delegated to someone else.

Meanwhile, the document also set out a range of actions PCNs should ‘consider’ to avoid patients ‘accidentally’ receiving a second Covid jab when they attend for their first.

These include using stickers to show a patient has been vaccinated, a stewarded ‘checkout’ process to prevent someone ‘accidentally re-joining another vaccination queue’ and asking patients whether they have already had the jab that day as well as in the last seven days.

The document added that:

  • PCNs must confirm patients have no Covid symptoms or test results pending before they enter the building and screen them to check they are eligible under current cohorts;
  • They should advise patients to attend same setting for their second dose ‘wherever possible’;
  • All site staff should be aware of security risks and take steps to prevent theft, ‘criminal reuse’ or ‘falsification’ of vaccine-related items on the black market;
  • More than 10,000 unregistered vaccinators are available to PCNs, in addition to St John’s Ambulance volunteers, but all volunteer staff must sign a volunteer agreement;
  • PCNs must ‘extend their CQC license under the temporary provision’ to register any temporary sites;
  • Lateral flow tests should be used for ‘regular testing’ of staff at PCN sites.

It comes as the Covid vaccine rollout continues at pace, with patients aged 55 and over – priority cohort 8 – starting to receive invitations for vaccination.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.