Offering a Covid booster shot to all adults by the end of December is a ‘tall order’ for practices, the sector has said after NHS England routine appointments may be postponed to support the campaign.
NHSE’s announcement comes after prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday (12 December) announced the timeline would be halved in response to the omicron variant.
This deadline was originally set for the end of January 2022.
The health service said it would be opening the national booking service to all over-18s from Wednesday (15 December).
GP teams are expected to be asked to ‘clinically prioritise’ their services to ‘free up’ capacity to support the vaccine campaign, alongside critical appointments such as cancer and urgent care.
However, this ‘might’ mean that routine appointments are postponed, NHSE warned.
‘First direct communication’
The Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) told Management in Practice that the system wide webinar to be held this evening will be ‘the first direct communication’ with primary care teams.
A spokesperson said: ‘We have come into our practices this morning and await news from our local CCGs and Covid teams which will give us more information following the Prime Minister’s briefing yesterday evening.’
They added they will continue to do ‘everything we can to provide Covid booster vaccinations for our patients to meet the deadline’.
Meanwhile, Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation, told Management in Practice: ‘A very tall order has been set but with the Government instructing that some non-urgent care can be temporarily paused and assuming there are sufficient staff, vaccine stock and that people come forward for their appointments, we hope the target will be achievable.’
Earlier this month, NHSE announced it would be part-suspending QOF to help practices deliver the extended booster programme.
Responding to the news of an accelerated campaign, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, highlighted that the NHS is ‘already under enormous pressure’, and that scaling up will be a ‘huge challenge’.
He said: ‘The NHS will, once again, do everything it can to deliver this hugely ambitious extension to the booster vaccination programme.
‘However, the NHS is already beyond full stretch so, as the prime minister acknowledged, we will need to reprioritise.’