GPonline reported last week that some PCNs had been left with no option but to pull out of phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme because of workforce and workload pressures. Phase 2 includes cohorts 10-12 identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – covering people aged 18-49.
GPs leading local vaccination centres said they wanted to ‘see the job through to the end’, but had to protect staff from burnout, with one LMC representative admitting as many as 50% of PCNs in the area had opted out.
MPs have argued that individual practices willing and able to deliver COVID-19 vaccines should be allowed to vaccinate patients under 50 years of age on their own premises rather than as part of PCN-wide campaigns.
Throughout the COVID-19 vaccination campaign GP practices have worked across PCN groups, pooling staff and resources to vaccinate at scale.
Guidance published by NHS England in January enabled GPs to deliver vaccinations at practice level to improve patient access or increase vaccination capacity – but the campaign continues to be built around PCNs.
Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Conservative MP for Rugby Mark Pawsey argued that individual surgeries should be allowed to deliver COVID-19 vaccines during phase 2.
He said: ‘Rugby’s primary care network-led vaccination centre at Locke House has provided over 34,000 first doses and 11,000 second doses to JCVI groups 1 to 9 through a fantastic team of staff and volunteers.
‘The GPs, however, have chosen not to take part in phase 2 of the programme, and the centre is expected to close in mid-July as a consequence. Our local doctors would prefer to vaccinate groups 10 to 12 in their own surgeries, although that option is not currently available to them.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock celebrated the success of PCNs in delivering COVID-19 vaccines, but said he would investigate the concerns.
He said: ‘Generally, the use of a primary care network – a group of GP practices – to come together to offer one centre has worked really well. That is the first I have heard of that concern, so I will take it away and ensure that it is looked at properly.’
On 20 April Labour MP for Lewisham East Janet Daby asked the government if it would assess ‘the potential merits of prioritising GP surgeries to provide COVID-19 vaccines’ over vaccine centres created to deliver jabs.