NHS England has urged all practices to get involved with the Covid vaccination programme ‘now’, rather than coming on board later when it may be ‘more complicated’ to do so.
Speaking at an NHSE webinar on Wednesday (18 November), Ed Waller, deputy director for primary care, acknowledged that some people would prefer to deliver the programme in their own practice, but said that he would ‘incite all practices’ to ‘get involved now’.
He said: ‘I think it’s important that people want to make sure their practice is part of this – and that you are part of it from the beginning – and that we’re all in it to try and make sure that every practice’s patients gets the right access to this vaccine at the earliest possible moment.’
‘Once we have to make arrangements to cover practices who aren’t wanting to get involved in the programme at this point, that does make it more complicated to give people the option to come on board later, and people just need to realise that now,’ he added.
Under the new direct enhanced service (DES), practices are expected to work together as part of primary care network (PCN) ‘groupings’ to deliver the programme and were required to jointly nominate a designated site for administering vaccinations from by 17 November.
In a letter to practices on 9 November, NHS England said CCGs will assess the nominated site to ensure it meets set criteria – such as vaccine storage capability – before making a recommendation. PCN groupings will be informed of the outcome by 23 November.
Designated site approach
In the webinar, Mr Waller explained there were two main reasons for NHS England taking the designated site approach – one is considerations around the vaccines themselves and what they ‘do and don’t lend themselves to and how they need to be handled’.
The second, Mr Waller said, is to ensure that there is a supply chain in place that enables the NHS to start the programme ‘as soon as possible in a successful way’.
Mr Waller added that a series of vaccines are being publicised in terms of their efficacy and availability, and delivery of any vaccination programme will continue to be a ‘moving picture’.
‘This will continue I think to be a moving picture and the way in which the NHS delivers vaccination against Covid could change as a result of that,’ he said.
‘I think we’re all accepting of that, so this is the first set of arrangements to make sure that general practice, and later community pharmacy, are part of all of this, but it’s very possible that elements of this will evolve for the better as we go.’
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer Covid vaccine, of which 10 million doses are expected to be available before the end of the year.
Alongside the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – which has yet to report phase 3 trial results – it is one of two vaccines which GPs in England may begin to deliver this year as part of the DES.