Communication and logistics failures heap pressure on GPs delivering COVID-19 vaccine

Poor communication and logistics failures have piled unnecessary extra pressure on GPs struggling to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, primary care network (PCN) leaders have warned.

COVID-19 vaccine sites (Photo: Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccine sites (Photo: Getty Images)

NHS Confederation PCN Network director Ruth Rankine told GPonline that ‘logistics had been difficult’ for many sites during the first wave of vaccines in general practice, which got underway on Monday, while confusion around rules left time-poor GPs rifling through dense guidance.

The warning comes as practices suffered delays to vaccine deliveries this week - in some cases hours before they were due to start vaccinating patients - forcing practice staff to reschedule hundreds of appointments.

She also warned that workforce planning around vaccination teams had been affected by the delay of a national protocol to allow non-registered healthcare professionals to administer the COVID vaccine.

Vaccine delays

Almost 138,000 people in the UK received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of Tuesday 15 December at GP-led or hospital vaccination sites, according to government figures.

However, some practices taking part in the first wave of the rollout were forced to call patients and re-book appointments after vaccine deliveries were delayed, while others reported waiting for IT equipment and supplies.

Ms Rankine argued that communications had to be improved quickly to ensure GPs and their teams could prepare and run clinics. She said: ‘I think that the logistics have been difficult for a lot of people. There are still a lot of questions that people have. That's not to say that the answers aren't out there somewhere in the guidance, but there's been a lot of guidance.

‘One clinical director told us that they had booked their vaccinations to start at 11:45 am, and their vaccine arrived at 11am. We have got to get better at confirming the information that people need in order to know what they're doing, when they're doing it and how they are doing it.’

Rescheduled appointments

She continued: ‘If they're a designated site they need that confirmed, and they need to know which waves they're in, and they need to know when that starts. They need to know when they are getting their vaccines - not just the day - but they need to know the time because people have been booked [in for jabs].

‘It's about clarity of guidance and it's strong communication, and clarity about what the process looks like from getting the supply of the vaccines from wherever they are stored to the output, because I think people at the moment are not quite sure where to go if they have a problem.’

Earlier in the month some vaccination sites were forced to pull out of the enhanced service contract because they could not accommodate the 15-minute observation period which was recommended in guidance published by the MHRA shortly before the go-live date.

Rankine also argued that a national protocol to allow no-registered health care staff to vaccinate patients was needed urgently to create more capacity. She said: ‘The patient group direction has now come out, but that obviously still limits the type of professional that can vaccinate. We understand that it's awaiting clearance within NHS England… [but] people [having been] asking for it to be published as soon as possible.’

NHS England orginally suggested that 280 GP designated sites were due to go live in the first wave of rollout this week. Around 100 sites took delivery of vaccine on Monday, and NHS England said 'hundreds' had begun to receive deliveries by Tuesday - although no figures have been published on the total number of sites now in operation.

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