Last week NHS leaders wrote to GPs informing them that primary care network (PCN) groupings could transport the Oxford vaccine flexibly between practice sites, as well as to care homes and the homes of housebound patients.
The letter said vaccines could be delivered from other sites within a PCN if it would help to improve patient access or increase vaccination capacity - opening the chance for delivery at individual practices.
GPonline has learned that practices in different parts of the country, including Stoke-on-Trent, Watford and Cambridgeshire, will now use this option to speed up vaccine delivery and ensure as many patients from the top risk group are inoculated.
COVID-19 vaccine delivery
Earlier this week health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said one in three people aged over 80 had received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with the NHS managing to deliver just shy of 2.5m vaccines in England as of 11 January.
But GPs recently called for COVID-19 vaccinations to be 'considerably ramped up' after delays to opening new local vaccination sites and problems with deliveries. Co-clinical director of Wokingham North PCN Dr Rupa Joshi said the changes would now make vaccine delivery easier.
She said: ‘We have a branch surgery that is a few miles away, and when we have invited our elderly patients up to the big health centre area, they have declined because they don’t have transport, or they are not keen to come along.
‘So we are holding another clinic on Wednesday morning so people over 80 that live locally can walk down, which will definitely increase uptake for the over 80s that live particularly in sheltered accommodation. We will also have people doing housebound jabs after the clinic.'
Flexibility for PCNs
Dr Joshi explained that her PCN has developed a sign-in and sign-out procedure to ensure that vaccines are not held at other sites and are used within the required six-hour period.
‘Without the Oxford vaccine we couldn’t have transported the vaccine from the main site to the branch surgery, but particularly because we are a PCN of five practices - two of the sites we work out of - those practices that are not based at those sites are more disadvantaged, and they have to organise with us to change our clinic times around, or let them in on the weekend,’ she said.
‘This way, they’ve got that flexibility, they can fit in around other clinics, prioritise their patients and even do ad hoc immunisations for people who are coming in already. So I think all in all that will definitely increase uptake.'
Watford GP Dr Simon Hodes, who is a joint PCN lead for his practice, told GPonline that his network would allow movement of the vaccine between practices. He said it was beneficial for PCNs to be able to roll out the vaccine individually.
Access to vaccines
He said: ‘I think from a logistical point of view, it makes sense that the vaccine should get delivered to a PCN site, and then within each PCN they can decide how they deploy it on a local level. If one PCN has a really good system going where we have carved off one of our sites which is a vaccine centre and it’s running fine, we’ve got all the set up, we’ll do it there.
‘But if another PCN has seven practices that are spread over a huge rural area they might want to take those vaccines, keeping the cold storage chain going, and keep them in their fridges in their individual sites. Ultimately, it's best that it is decided on a PCN basis.’
Networks in Cambridgeshire look set to deliver the vaccine at individual practices after the LMC in that area informed GPs that the changes would both ‘improve access to vaccinations’ and ‘significantly speed up the delivery’ of the programme. North Staffordshire GP Federation chair Dr Chandra Kanneganti also confirmed that networks in Stoke-on-Trent would be ‘using this option', including at his own practice.
Prime minister Boris Johnson promised last week that more than 1,000 GP-led vaccination sites would be established across England by 15 January.