GP-led Covid vaccination sites will be able to continue delivering jabs until September if they have ‘sufficient capacity’, NHS England has said this week.
But some may be asked to suspend the service if they are not delivering ‘value for money’, it added.
The enhanced service was due to expire at the end of this month, but NHS England had indicated it was expected to be extended until September – as long as delivery did not impact on ‘core’ GP services.
It indicated at the time that GPs may see changes to funding to ‘reflect the changing delivery landscape’, but an updated service specification confirming the extension set out that fees for the service remain unchanged.
The updated enhanced service specification, published last week, said that practices with ‘sufficient workforce capacity and appropriately trained staff’ can continue to deliver Covid vaccines until 30 September.
However, it added that NHS England may require PCNs to ‘pause’ the service if it believes there is ‘significantly reduced’ demand, ‘unacceptable’ vaccine wastage or the site does not ‘represent acceptable value for money’.
Practices that ‘do not agree to the pause’ may provide ‘evidence’ to counter this and NHS England will ‘reasonably reconsider whether it remains appropriate to continue with the pause’, it said.
If they are asked to pause the service, practices may not administer Covid jabs and will not be eligible for any vaccine payments except for services delivered before the suspension – although they will be paid for ‘unavoidable and limited costs’ in exceptional circumstances.
However, they must still ‘actively co-operate’ with national call and recall requirements and direct any patients to other available services ‘as appropriate’.
The document also set out that practices may ‘agree to only deliver services to patients in specific cohorts’ or NHS England may request that they do so.
NHS England said last month that it ‘anticipated’ some GP-led vaccination sites would ‘deliver significantly fewer vaccinations or hibernate over the next few months’.
It comes as the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that GP-delivered Covid jabs are better value for money than mass vaccination centres.
But health secretary Sajid Javid has said a ‘national vaccination service’ is required to ensure GPs are not asked to stop routine care again.
And NHS England has said that PCN vaccination sites are ‘not expected’ to lead the spring Covid booster jab programme or the rollout for five-to-11-year-olds, due to ongoing workforce pressures.
Meanwhile, NHS England announced on Friday that bookings have opened for Covid boosters for vulnerable 12-15s.
Those who are severely immunosuppressed and with underlying health conditions can now book their booster online via the national booking service once they become eligible.
The NHS will ‘shortly’ write to the 4,400 12-15s who are currently eligible to invite them to book their jab but ‘thousands more’ are due to become eligible in the ‘coming weeks and months’, NHS England said.
GPs and consultants have also sent 6,400 invitations to the parents and guardians of children who are household contacts of the severely immunosuppressed, it added.
The JCVI recommended in December that all 16-17s, as well as 12-15s who are clinically vulnerable, a household contact of an immunosuppressed person or themselves ‘severely immunosuppressed’ and having had a third primary dose, should be offered a Covid booster jab.
This article was initially published on our sister title Pulse.