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NHSE: Covid vaccine DES will continue but must not impact ‘core’ GP services

by Costanza Potter
28 February 2022

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The Covid vaccine DES is expected to be extended until September, although must not impact on ‘core’ GP services, NHS England has said.

The news comes as health secretary Sajid Javid has said a ‘national vaccination service’ is required to ensure GPs are not asked to stop routine care again.

The current enhanced service was due to expire at the end of next month.

But in a planning document published last week, NHS England said the contract was currently under discussion, with an expectation that it would be extended ‘until the end of September 2022’.

It added that it is ‘anticipated’ that some local vaccination service [LVS] sites – which include both GP- and community pharmacy-led sites – will ‘deliver significantly fewer vaccinations or hibernate over the next few months’.

The document said: ‘We expect the existing general practice Covid-19 vaccination enhanced service and [community pharmacy] local enhanced service will be extended until the end of September 2022, although it is anticipated a proportion of LVS sites will deliver significantly fewer vaccinations or hibernate over the next few months with the ability to increase capacity if required. 

‘The contract is currently being discussed with professional bodies in the usual way.’

It added that PCNs continuing to deliver Covid jabs beyond April ‘will need to do so without impacting the 2022/23 core services, for example by drawing down additional workforce capacity’.

Local commissioners should work with PCNs to ‘regularly review their capacity to deliver and be ready to flex delivery through other sites in case needed’, NHS England said. 

However, it indicated that GPs taking part in the service may see changes to funding to ‘reflect the changing delivery landscape’, with more detail to be available ‘by early March’.

It said: ‘Current financial and contractual processes and principles, for the initial planning period, remain in place up to the end of September 2022 and include: Item of Service and additional reasonable costs for primary care providers contracted through the ES and LES. 

‘Specific items may be adjusted within these parameters to reflect the changing delivery landscape.’

The document also said:

  • Local commissioners should ‘plan to align Covid-19 vaccination with other vaccination programmes as far as possible, where clinically and operationally appropriate’
  • They should ensure staff are shared ‘across all vaccine services’ to minimise impact on core services
  • Nationally procured volunteer contracts will remain in place and their use should be ‘maximised’
  • Local commissioners should ensure all vaccination sites are delivering at least the ‘minimum level’ of ‘making every contact count’ interventions

It comes as the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that GP-delivered Covid jabs are better value for money than mass vaccination centres.

NHS England has said that PCN vaccination sites are ‘not expected’ to be the ‘primary delivery model’ for the spring Covid booster jab programme.

They are also not expected to lead on the vaccine rollout for five-to-11-year-olds, due to ongoing workforce pressures.

But NHS England has said that commissioners should plan for a potential autumn booster campaign from September, with a ‘minimum scenario to offer vaccination to JCVI cohorts 1-6 and for a maximum scenario to include JCVI cohorts 1-9’. It did not indicate what level of involvement is expected from GPs.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Government has set out plans to incorporate future Covid vaccinations into routine immunisation programmes.

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This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.