More than three quarters (78%) of GPs have faced ‘limited access’ to enough flu vaccine stock during this year’s programme, according to a Doctor’s Association UK (DAUK) survey.
In the campaign group’s survey of almost 900 UK GPs, 42% said they had faced some difficulties in vaccinating patients this season.
While flu stock shortages were cited by GPs as the biggest issue (78%), a further 38% reported struggling to find enough staff to keep on top of both the flu service and routine clinical work.
Another 22% said they did not feel able to safely deliver vaccinations due to issues with premises and social distancing guidelines, and 21% were experiencing competition with local pharmacies.
Some GPs (8%) also said patients had been ‘unwilling’ to attend the practice to get their jab.
Some survey respondents commented on the ‘mammoth task of arranging drive-through’ clinics, and the associated venue hire and personnel costs, including for overtime which they could not claim a reimbursement for.
Others said ‘confusing messages’ from the Government about the cohort eligible for flu vaccinations has led to patients ‘getting angry at the surgery’, with some even directing ‘abuse’ and making ‘formal complaints’ because under 65 vaccines are not yet available.
Further support needed
The survey, which looked at the state of primary care, also found that 55% of GPs are worried they might not have access to adequate PPE during the second wave of Covid-19, while 52% feel their current premises are unsuitable for catering to both Covid and non-Covid patients simultaneously.
More than three-quarters (78%) said the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health, and 48% said they felt ‘unsupported’ by NHS England, with only 2% saying they have been ‘well’ or ‘very well’ supported.
The DAUK presented the survey findings in a cross-party briefing on 3 November, which involved representatives from the Conservatives and Labour, as well as various smaller parties.
‘Staff are valued and appreciated’
Dr Vinesh Patel, GP partner and DAUK committee member said: ‘Following our roundtable meeting with MPs on Tuesday, we are proud to have been able to raise the issues highlighted by primary care staff respondents in our survey.
‘We discussed issues such as the mental health of staff, rising workloads, the GP-bashing within the media and the importance of primary care in this pandemic, and we are confident that we will be able to work together to tackle these issues going forward.’
Dr Nikki Kanani MBE, NHS England’s primary care medical director, said: ‘We want to take this opportunity to thank our staff and colleagues across primary care for everything they have done throughout the pandemic. We want to thank those working late into night – chasing advice, checking on shielded patients, reassuring your patients. We want to say thank you for the amazing work you’ve done in delivering flu vaccinations in new ways, in car parks, at weekends and in the pouring rain.
‘We know teams are feeling tired, and we know that they are doing the very best they can in an incredible difficult time – over the coming months know that you are valued and appreciated.’
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