NHS England’s mass coronavirus vaccination plan is ‘impossible’ to deliver and gives ‘grossly unreasonable deadlines,’ doctors have warned.
Health chiefs hope to begin rolling out a Covid-19 jab in time for December 1 and are preparing more than 1,200 vaccination centres across the UK – most of which will be at large GP centres, it is hoped.
But groups who represent GPs say the current plans are ‘unprofessional’ and ‘devoid of realistic expectations’.
In a letter seen by health magazine, Pulse, the groups have also raised ‘deep concerns’ that the knock-on impact of the proposals could affect other services GP provide.
The concern comes after NHS England warned GP surgeries could have their services cut back until the middle of 2021 so that doctors can immunise millions of people against Covid-19 in new clinics.
Health chiefs hope to begin rolling out a Covid-19 jab in time for December 1 and are preparing more than 1,200 vaccination centres across the UK – most of which will be at large GP centres.
Health chiefs hope to dish out 1.2million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine every week as soon as health chiefs approve a jab, in a major army-backed operation to get life back to normal.
But Local Medical Committees (LMCs), which represent GPs, have hit out at NHS England’s plan, which aims to set up a Direct Enhanced Service (DES) led by GPs.
GPs who sign up to be part of the DES will be paid £12.58 per jab the deliver.
However LMCs have raised concerns this might not cover the extra costs, while LMCs in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire say they have ‘deep concerns’ over impact of the plans on the ‘stability and capacity’.
In the letter seen by Pulse, the group said: ‘If a practice chooses to sign up to this DES, the LMC believes they should neither be penalised nor held in breach if they fail to meet the onerous and arguably impossible requirements of the specification.
‘We feel practices should be allowed to do as much as they can and be paid for all work done.’
Others, such as Surrey and Sussex LMCs are concerned practices could be left out of pocket, despite the government giving 25 per cent more in rates for the delivery of Covid jabs than they pay for flu jabs.
Dr Darren Tymans, medical director for Surrey and Sussex LMCs, told Pulse: ‘What seems clear to me is that practices attempting to run this using practice-based models which utilise a lot of doctor and nurse time run a risk of making a very significant loss.
Health chiefs hope to dish out 1.2million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine every week as soon as health chiefs approve a jab, in a major army-backed operation to get life back to normal
‘Delivering at a larger scale, using lots of health care assistants or less expensive staff who have been trained to deliver vaccines, it might be possible to deliver with enough surplus to also pay for at least some of the other costs of the programme.
‘But this is not guaranteed, and there are a lot of “ifs” that will remain beyond practices’ control.’
An NHS spokesperson meanwhile told the Telegraph that the service was providing £150million in extra funding to support GPs with the vaccine roll-out.
It comse after it was revealed more than 1,200 GP surgeries are being geared up to dish out 1.2million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine every week as soon as health chiefs approve a jab.
Matt Hancock has promised the health service will work around the clock to get the UK vaccinated, with practices open between 8am and 8pm every day of the week and on Bank Holidays.
He admitted deploying the vaccine was going to be a ‘colossal challenge’ and revealed the military were on standby to help.
NHS bosses have told all of England’s 1,250 GP networks to designate a single practice capable of administering at least 975 doses of the vaccine in their area each week — the equivalent of at least 1.22million nationwide. Surgeries will need to have fridge space available by December 1, according to documents.
A priority list of who should get the vaccine first was drawn up earlier this year by the influential Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)
But concerns about the toll on patients are mounting after much of the normal healthcare provided by GP practices was suspended during the first wave of the pandemic.
Research by the Health Foundation found that 4.7 million fewer people in England were referred for a hip or knee replacement or cataract removal between January and August this year, either because the service was not operating or the patient in need did not want to go to hospital.
In a letter to GPs setting out plans for services to ‘contribute’ to the vaccination programme, NHS chiefs accept that GP surgeries will not be able operate as usual while their doctors are engaged in the immunisation effort.
‘Our shared ambition is for general practice to remain fully open and accessible to all patients,’ wrote Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s medical director for primary care.
‘We also recognise that the additional workload of a Covid-19 vaccination programme may require practices to prioritise clinical activity.’
Pharmacists and dedicated clinics set up in places such as sports halls are also likely to be used. Patients will need to be observed for 15 minutes after the vaccination is administered and appointments can be managed through a national booking system, it was also revealed today.
Number 10 has been urged ‘not to screw up’ the rollout of any coronavirus jab, in a stark warning from one of the government’s most prominent scientists on the back of a breakthrough by Pfizer – who recently announced tests from its jab showed a 90 per cent efficacy.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of Downing St’s vaccine taskforce, said scientists had delivered their end of the bargain by creating a Covid-19 vaccine that exceeded expectations.
But he warned it was now on ministers to hold up their end of the deal by ensuring any approved vaccine is rolled out smoothly to vulnerable groups who are most at risk of falling victim to Covid-19. Care home staff and residents are at the front of the queue.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of Downing St’s vaccine taskforce, said scientists had delivered their end of the bargain by creating a Covid-19 vaccine that exceeded expectations
Pfizer’s jab — considered the front-runner alongside Oxford’s experimental jab — has to be stored at -70C which rules out keeping it at most GP surgeries or pharmacies.
And it needs to be transported in refrigerated lorries and special suitcase-sized boxes filled with dry ice to prevent it from spoiling.
Sir John told MPs on Wednesday he expects Brits to get their hands on up to three jabs ‘before New Year’ when data from studies of other promising candidates start to pour in over the coming weeks.
MailOnline understands Oxford University’s vaccine, which is being manufactured and distributed by Cambridge-based pharma giant AstraZeneca, will publish its preliminary results next week, which will kick-start the rollout process of its candidate.
The third vaccine most likely to be ready by the year’s end is being made by by US firm Moderna. The MHRA last month put it under a rolling review, which signals it is being earmarked as one of the most promising candidates.
In more good news, Sir John claimed there was an ’80 per cent chance’ life in the UK will be back to normal by spring, provided the Government ‘doesn’t screw up the distribution of the vaccines’.