GP practice pulls out of COVID booster jabs amid pressure on staff

A GP surgery in Derbyshire has stopped delivering COVID-19 booster jabs after needing all staff to concentrate on core services amid ‘unprecedented demand’ in recent weeks.

COVID-19 booster jabs (Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images)
COVID-19 booster jabs (Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images)

Despite recruiting additional clinical and non-clinical staff to administer boosters, partners at the surgery said the extra work was placing ‘greater pressure’ on its day-to-day activities - including seeing patients.

GP partners at Swadlincote Surgery said patients had ‘repeatedly’ told staff they had been left frustrated at waiting times to see clinicians, and had experienced ‘difficulty getting through on the telephones’.

Partners at the practice cited logistical problems with the booster campaign, including a ‘laborious’ administrative process, being unable to store the vaccine permanently at their surgery, and the 15-minute observation time.

COVID-19 boosters

Its decision to stop delivering booster shots comes as NHS England told commissioners last week that GPs should not be asked to give COVID-19 vaccinations to healthy 12- to 15-year-olds in areas where access is ‘challenged’.

In a statement to patients sent on 20 October, GP partners said: ‘Over recent months, we have seen an unprecedented demand on our core services and we recognise that, despite our best efforts and recruiting additional clinical and non-clinical staff, patients repeatedly tell us they are often left frustrated at the waiting times to see our team or have difficulty getting through on the telephones.

‘We believe diverting our staff to take part in an optional piece of work would only seek to place greater pressure on those staff who remain available for core work each day resulting in a reduced level of care for our patients. None of our staff can be in two places at once doing COVID vaccines and whatever else they would be doing normally for our patients at the same time.’

In a letter sent to PCN leaders this week, health bosses said that commissioners must not ask networks to vaccinate children aged 12-15 where ‘access to primary medical services is challenged’.

Industrial action

General practice is currently under huge pressure, with the BMA's GP committee preparing to ballot the profession on industrial action after voting unanimously to reject the government's 'support package' and access plans for general practice published last week.

The committee has demanded negotiations 'to replace the outdated, underfunded, unlimited, unsafe workload of the current GP contract', and backed a motion calling on LMCs to 'disengage' with implementation of the access plans.

It has also asked for practices to pause additional roles reimbursement scheme work and to disengage from the demands of the PCN DES, which would include work towards the investment and impact fund - a QOF for PCNs.

GPs also criticised the health secretary Sajid Javid last week for failing to implement ‘Plan B’ as daily cases of coronavirus passed 50,000 for the first time in three months. He refused appeals that the NHS was under unsustainable pressure.

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