Family doctors are still in the dark as to how the Covid-19 booster programme, with a new Moderna jab targeting the Omicron variant, will be managed next month
A new Omicron-specific jab, by Moderna, will be rolled out to the over-50s as part of the UK’s latest vaccination programme due to start in September (Photo Dinendra Haria/LightRocket via SOPA Images)
By Paul GallagherHealth Correspondent
GPs have called on NHS England and the Government to “urgently review” plans for the autumn Covid booster campaign amid fears they will be left paying for the programme out of their own pockets.
The UK Health Security Agency announced it will offer a new Omicron-specific jab, by Moderna, to the over-50s, as part of its latest vaccination programme due to start in September. NHS England had been expected to announce details of the programme on Wednesday but it is believed to have been delayed because of a row between GPs and the Government over how it will be managed.
The default contract for delivering vaccines this autumn has been cut from £12.58 per dose to £10.06, while a £10 supplement for them to give jabs in care homes and to other vulnerable groups has also been cut, the British Medical Association has said. Rising staffing and energy costs have also led to surgeries’ operating costs increasing significantly, leaving many wanting to opt-out of delivering more Covid jabs.
Dr Lizzie Toberty, GP lead at grassroots lobbying organisation Doctors’ Association UK, told i: “Practices have looked at available funding to provide the latest Covid vaccine and it simply isn’t viable. The money for previous rollouts, which has now been reduced or removed, comes on the back of increases in staff costs with the recent pay uplift [part funded from existing NHS budgets], and also increased energy costs.
“Nobody’s asking to make money on this but we can’t deliver a vaccine programme at a loss. That can’t come out of individual GP partners’ pockets, so the funding needs to be urgently reviewed or an alternative programme or provider sought. But that would mean patients making two trips to have a Covid and flu vaccine which can be delivered at once.
“And I find it really concerning that in the middle of August we don’t know how we are going to run a vaccine programme that is supposed to be rolled out in September. There needs to be more understanding from the Government and NHS England as to what the likely costs GP practices will incur and then to work with practices to deliver the programme. Right now though it’s all looking very uncertain.“
The Royal College of GPs will raise the issue at one of its regular catch-ups with NHS England this week. RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said it was “understandable” that some surgeries do not want to sign up to the autumn rollout, given the intense pressure primary care is already under.
He said: “We would of course welcome any initiatives that would free up and build capacity in general practice to allow more practices to participate in the rollout of the booster programme, if that is the barrier stopping them. More widely, ahead of what is likely to be a very tough winter for the NHS, we need to see urgent support for general practice, including immediate action to stop unnecessary bureaucracy, so that GPs can focus on delivering patient care.”
Health officials said it was not fair to call for an “urgent review” of the rollout with plans not yet finalised and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation having only issued its guidance on the latest booster programme on Monday. A spokesman for NHS England said it will be outlining plans for the autumn booster campaign “in the coming days”.