BMA raises 'serious concerns' about GP workload and funding for autumn COVID boosters

The BMA has raised 'serious concerns' about the workload implications of this autumn's COVID-19 booster programme and argued that practices will be underpaid for the work they are doing.

(Photo: Daniel Harvey Gonzalez/Getty Images)

The BMA has urged NHS England to revert to previous levels of payment per jab for practices this autumn, rather than 'trying to deliver a booster programme on the cheap'.

For this next stage of the vaccination programme practices will receive the standard £10.06 item of service fee for a vaccination, whereas in previous phases they received £12.58 per COVID jab. Practices will also no longer receive additional payments for care home vaccinations but they will still receive an additional £10 per jab for housebound patients.

However the BMA said rising energy costs and storage requirements for the new Moderna vaccine, which the JCVI has recommended for use in the booster programme, will add additional costs to PCN vaccine hubs that had not been budgeted for.

COVID-19 boosters

BMA GP committee clinical and prescribing policy lead Dr Preeti Shukla said the booster programme was essential to prevent another COVID-19 outbreak this winter and that the new vaccine was 'great news' in the fight against the virus.

However, she said: 'With the current well-documented pressures on GP practices and the reduction in the funding for delivery of these vaccines, we have serious concerns about the rollout.

'Payment to GPs for delivery of vaccines has dropped 20% since last year’s rollout while the costs for GP practices have only rocketed in the meantime.

'This vaccine will require freezing and refrigerating, an ever more expensive operation as energy costs rise. The new Moderna vaccine only strengthens the case for returning payments to last year’s level rather than trying to deliver a booster programme on the cheap.'

Dr Shukla added: 'GP practices, while glad to hear of a new vaccine to add to their arsenal, will nevertheless be wondering if the numbers add up as they face a difficult autumn and winter.'

Workload pressures

Last week Londonwide LMCs raised concerns about the ability of practices in the capital to deliver the flu and COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, alongside a polio booster programme for children aged 1-9, as well as managing routine care.

The BMA has also previously warned that the last minute decision to offer autumn COVID-19 booster and flu jabs to all over-50s would pile unfair pressure on GP practices and could cause 'severe problems' for already over-stretched practices.

Meanwhile, this week the RCGP said that practices need 'urgent support' ahead of what is likely to be 'a very tough' winter. It said measures set out in NHS England's winter plan, which include the promise of an additional 1,000 social prescribing link workers and health and wellbeing coaches and 1,000 additional care coordinators to support practices, do not go far enough to help GPs.

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