Under-pressure GPs told to prepare for 'uplift in bookings' for COVID-19 jabs

NHS chiefs have acknowledged intense pressure on general practice - but warned vaccination sites to prepare for an 'uplift in bookings' as an advertising campaign to promote jabs for under-50s began.

COVID-19 vaccination campaign expanding (Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccination campaign expanding (Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

The government has launched an advertising campaign called 'Every vaccine gives us hope' to promote COVID-19 jabs for under-50s.

The campaign comes as NHS officials in England said vaccinations had now been opened up to people aged 44 - with a further expansion to those aged 40-43 expected 'very shortly' as supply becomes available.

In a message to primary care staff, NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani and director of primary care vaccination Caroline Temmink said they appreciated 'how much pressure general practice is under, particularly as life begins to return to some semblance of normality and across general practice we now need to deal with pent-up demand'.

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Find out how the vaccination campaign is going: GPonline COVID-19 vaccination tracker

However, they warned that as the government marketing campaign launches, vaccination sites should 'consider any contingency plans they might need to put in place around additional capacity or support, in case this results in an uplift in bookings'.

GP-led vaccination sites - which are delivering three quarters or more of jabs in England - are already delivering huge numbers of vaccinations every week.

First-dose vaccinations have continued throughout April despite the vaccination campaign being focused largely on delivering second doses to millions of people who received a first dose in January and early February.

Around 10.6m doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered UK-wide in the first 24 days of April - more than 440,000 per day on average. A total of 76% of jabs have been second doses this month so far - but more than 2.5m people have received a first dose of vaccine in April to date.

GP workload

But the campaign has left practices facing intense pressure. GPonline reported last month on soaring GP workload that saw practices deliver hundreds of thousands more appointments in the early weeks of 2021 compared with last year, along with a third more clinical administrative work and the vast bulk of jabs delivered through the UK COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Workload and staffing pressure have seen some PCNs opt out of the vaccination campaign for cohorts 10-12 identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - covering patients aged under 50.

Following the launch of the campaign to promote vaccination, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'As a result of the incredible hard work and dedication of NHS vaccination teams across the country, roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme has gone incredibly well, so far, with uptake in the over-50s reaching 95% in England last week.

'There’s no doubt that should uptake continue in this trajectory, it will bring us closer to the end to this appalling pandemic, and as such we welcome this government campaign targeting the next group of people to be offered the vaccine.'

Watch the NHS COVID-19 vaccine campaign video:

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