GP-led sites designated to deliver COVID-19 vaccination in their primary care network (PCN) area will be informed on 7 December whether they are being 'stood up' as part of the first wave of rolling out the vaccination programme in England.
Although residents and staff at care homes for older people are the top priority group identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), GP sites look set to begin vaccinating patients in the second priority group - those aged over 80.
A letter from NHS England on 4 December says that sites chosen in the first wave will need to deliver 975 doses of vaccine in the week beginning 14 December - and that this must be completed within 3.5 days.
The letter from NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani and primary care director Ed Waller confirms: 'Each site stood up would need to deliver 975 doses to priority patients during the week beginning 14 December – those in the over 80 cohort who can attend the site for vaccination, and taking into account other significant factors, clinical or otherwise, which may increase risk.'
It is unclear how many GP sites will be included in the first wave, but NHS England says it is working with CCGs to identify sites that will be ready to start vaccination from 14 December. Its 4 December letter added: 'The number of sites coming on stream initially will vary by CCG according to the proportion of its population over 80, reflecting the priority groups selected by JCVI. CCGs have been asked to consider inequalities and deprivation when selecting sites.'
GP sites chosen to begin vaccinating patients in the first wave will be supplied with IT equipment, a fridge, access to training and further support.
Around 50 hospital hubs are set to begin vaccinating care home workers and patients aged over 80 - those with pre-existing hospital appointments, or being discharged - from 8 December. Despite the Scottish health minister confirming last week that Scotland plans to vaccinate care home residents from 14 December, and confirming that packs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be split up to enable this, no timescale has been given for the start of this process in England.
Care home patients
A DHSC letter on plans to launch the hospital hubs said: 'Getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to care home residents is challenging because of the requirements for transporting it and the temperature at which it is stored. So our focus, initially, is on vaccinating care home workers and the over 80s.'
The NHS England letter said: 'The NHS will be the first healthcare system in the world to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to those most at risk.
'We recognise the scale and the complexity of this vaccination programme make it one of the greatest challenges the NHS has ever faced, and we are grateful for your continued efforts. It is crucial we start to activate local vaccination services to allow priority patient cohorts to start accessing the vaccine.'