Salaried GPs must not be coerced into vaccinating for free, BMA warns

Salaried GPs should not be coerced into unpaid work for the COVID-19 vaccination programme, the BMA has warned, after reports of doctors being pressured to work on a 'goodwill basis'.

BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)
BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)

The BMA said last week that it had received reports of salaried GPs being asked by practices to volunteer for shifts in vaccination centres with no payment or time off in lieu.

The association said GPs and other staff should 'never be coerced' into working for free - pointing out that staff costs are covered in funding for the vaccination programme.

The National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) said reports of salaried GPs being put under pressure to work for free were 'unacceptable' - warning that unfair treatment could push more doctors into locum roles.

COVID-19 vaccination

An update published by the BMA said: ‘We have received reports of salaried GPs being asked by practices to volunteer for vaccination on a goodwill basis with no payment or time off in lieu from their practice.

‘While any clinician can volunteer to support vaccination clinics, funding models should not rely on this, and employees should never be coerced into doing so. GP practices are paid to administer COVID-19 vaccinations and payment of staff is included in the costing of this funding.

‘Salaried GPs should be fully remunerated for any vaccination shifts and should not feel pressured to take these on a goodwill basis.’

Sessional GP committee chair Dr Ben Molyneux told GPonline that the BMA had received 'a small number of reports', but insisted it was important that the issue was flagged by GPs being pushed to volunteer.

Unpaid work

NASGP chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse said: ‘A complaint that we often hear from salaried GPs is that they feel undervalued, sometimes citing this as a reason to join the locum workforce or work in chambers.

‘To hear that there are expectations for salaried GPs to now work for free, whatever the excuse, is inexcusable, particularly when there is funding set aside to pay them.’

In February GPonline reported that GPs with long COVID had lost their jobs because a lack of financial support had left practices facing the 'impossible choice' of reducing services or letting staff go.

GP practices were given an extra £120m in March to use over the next six months to help to deliver the vaccine campaign among other tasks.

Payments to practices taking part in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign - which has now delivered more than 32m first doses and almost 40m doses of vaccine in total across the UK - have been affected by errors.

Clinicians warned GPonline last month that practices could struggle to pay staff on time after some surgeries were underpaid by NHS England following an administration error. Vaccine payments were also sent to the wrong practices in some PCNs last month - creating confusion and extra work for practices.

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