General practice does not have the capacity to deal with phone calls about Covid passports, the Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) has warned.
In a tweet sent today (13 October), which tagged both the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales, the IGPM said that a helpline must be made available to redirect such phone calls, to help practice teams ‘concentrate on the day job’.
It said: ‘When Welsh citizens have difficulty accessing a Covid pass the first person they are advised to contact [is] their GP practice. There is no central helpline for these calls. This must change.’
From Monday (11 October), NHS Covid Passes became mandatory for entry into large events and some venues in Wales, including nightclubs and unseated indoor areas with more than 500 people.
People in Wales cannot use the NHS App to access their pass as is the case for people in England and must instead be downloaded from the NHS website.
The Government in Wales also confirmed this week that mask-wearing and working from home advice would remain in place into 2022.
However, the Welsh Government said a helpline did exist for those unable to use the digital pass.
Responding to the IGPM’s statement, a spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: ‘If people are unable to use the digital NHS Covid pass they are invited to call 0300 303 5667 (which is a helpline number).’
It added that in its official guidance, ‘the only time people are advised to contact their GP is if their personal details are incorrect’.
It also said: ‘GPs cannot provide letters showing your Covid-19 status.’
In May, NHS England warned that GP practices ‘may see an increase’ in interest from patients wanting to access their digital health records following the launch of its vaccination status service.
Nicola Davies, IGPM co-founder and practice manager at the Roseland Surgeries in Cornwall, at the time told Management in Practice that they had ‘definitely had an increase in requests from people for access to their records’.
However, plans to introduce vaccine passports in England to access nightclubs and large events were scrapped last month according to Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
Meanwhile, in April an independent GP app launched the UK’s first Covid passport feature but received similar criticisms from GP leaders that it may increase the number of patient requests access online records.
Despite this, a survey conducted back in June suggested that the introduction of a vaccine passports would encourage over a third of unvaccinated people to get their Covid jab.
Public Health Wales has also been approached for comment.