Patients looking to travel internationally should use the NHS App to prove their Covid vaccine status to help avoid extra workload for practices, the Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) has said.
This comes after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi ruled out the prospect of government-issued vaccine passports, which would theoretically allow people who have been vaccinated to travel freely.
Instead, Zahawi said on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (7 February), patients should contact their GP to receive a vaccine certificate as proof they have been inoculated.
The IGPM said on Twitter it ‘will be recommending that patients use their NHS App account access to prove their vaccine status’ or ‘pay a fee for the provision’ of a certificate.
The NHS App allows patients to book appointments, place orders for repeat prescriptions and access their GP medical record.
Practices can currently charge for providing vaccination certificates, as this is a service that falls outside the NHS contract.
Evidence from GP
The concept of a vaccine passport was first introduced to allow people to travel internationally and with greater freedom if they had been vaccinated.
The policy was branded ‘discriminatory’ by Mr Zahawi, in part because the Covid vaccine is not mandatory in the UK.
Mr Zahawi said: ‘Of course you have the evidence that you have been vaccinated held by your GP and if other countries require you to show proof of that evidence then that is up to those countries.’
Practices already ‘working flat out’
But some GPs, including Professor Maureen Baker, former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), questioned the ‘workload implications’ behind the minister’s statement.
The BMA said that extra administrative work should be reduced as GPs continue to balance vaccinations and non-Covid care.
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: ‘Practices are working flat out successfully delivering the Covid vaccination programme while continuing to provide non-Covid care to many other patients.
‘To prioritise this vital work, we need a reduction in bureaucracy and admin tasks – including writing letters, which practices can charge for as this work is not funded by the NHS.
He added: ‘It would far better if all patients had easy access to their vaccination history electronically, so that they are able to provide evidence of this without needing to request a letter from their surgery.’
Dr Sally Lewis, Wales’ national clinical lead for value-based care, said on Twitter that if ‘digital communication with patients was hardwired into the way we do things this wouldn’t be a problem’.
Another GP said on Twitter that the vaccines minister should have clarified that proof of vaccination is not considered ‘medically urgent work’ and is subject to a charge ‘as per other vaccinations, to ‘set appropriate expectations’ for patients.