RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said retired doctors are being ‘under-utilised’ in the effort to vaccinate the public against coronavirus - insisting that an army of retired medics is waiting to help.
He said doctors need to submit more than 20 pieces of documentation to return to action, labelling the process a ‘deterrent’ slowing down their return.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that the government hopes to vaccinate the top four priority groups idenfied by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation with a first dose of the vaccine by mid February.
Around 1,000 hospital and primary care vaccination sites could be operational by the end of this week, but the target represents a huge challenge for the NHS workforce.
Retired GPs have reported difficulty in applying to become vaccinators, and Professor Marshall warned more had to be done to make it easier for retired GPs to lend a hand.
‘Recently retired GPs - and other healthcare professionals - signed up in droves to help with efforts to tackle the COVID-19 vaccination programme,' the RCGP chair said. 'These are people with huge amounts of skill and experience to offer, yet in many cases, this valuable resource is being under-utilised.
‘Requiring people to submit more than 20 pieces of documentation, some of which have low relevance to the task they will be doing, and some of which some retired medics and returners to the profession won’t even have, is a deterrent for them getting involved at a time when we need all hands on deck.’
Professor Marshall said approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was ‘fantastic news’, but warned an appropriate number of staff would be needed to deliver it successfully and swiftly.
‘This will be a game changer in escalating the scale and pace at which GPs, our teams and colleagues across the NHS can vaccinate patients against this dreadful virus,' he said. 'But we won’t be able to do it alone - and there is an army of retired medics waiting to help. We need to allow them to do so, and keep bureaucratic barriers to this to the bare minimum.'
The Telegraph reported last week on a government source suggesting health secretary Matt Hancock had called for a reduction in bureaucracy to boost NHS staff available to deliver vaccinations.
GP-led sites across the UK will deliver hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week as rollout of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine began on 4 January. The government has said that more than one in five of England's 2.9m patients aged over 80 have now received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.