A recent BMA survey showed sessional GPs, particularly locums, are much less likely than any other group of doctors to have received a COVID vaccination, despite being in the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) priority group 2 (healthcare workers).
The Government set a target of 31 January by which all healthcare workers should have received their first vaccination. This is ambitious but achievable. The sessional GPs committee is encouraging all sessional GPs to take action now to ensure that you all receive the protection you deserve.
The crux of any potential problems seems to be the identification of locum GPs, and GPs in any non-standard roles, as healthcare workers. Sadly, no centralised system has been invented, meaning that there are a huge number of local options. But, flagging yourself as a healthcare worker is essential to access a vaccine promptly.
There are several ways in which you can flag yourself as a healthcare worker to gain priority access to the vaccine. It may be trial and error based on your local systems:
- Via the current practice you are working at – if you are currently working at a practice (or other provider), start by asking them. They are obligated to provide vaccinations to their staff. You need to ask them to add you to their staff list
- Via a practice you have worked with in the past – if you are not currently working, or are working in quite an irregular pattern, or with a remote provider, then you could ask a local practice that you have worked with in the past. They may be happy to add you to their staff list
- Via your registered GP practice – your registered practice can flag you as a healthcare worker and arrange vaccination at their local hub. Try to contact them using an online consultation/e-consultation rather than by telephone, to reduce pressure on the phone lines. You can usually find a link to use the online consultation on your practice's website, without needing a login. Ask to be added to category 2 as a ‘healthcare professional’ in line with JCVI guidance, including your GMC number in the request. They should respond to your request, and we would encourage all practices to support the GP workforce in this way
- Via a mass vaccination hub – you can book an appointment at the mass vaccination hubs if these are local to you, but the booking system will only allow this if you have already been flagged as a healthcare worker
- Via your local hospital – NHS England has stated that these are the default providers for all healthcare workers. It is not clear how GPs could access these appointments, but perhaps contacting the Occupational Health department could be a good starting point?
If you are struggling, then we would advise contacting your local commissioner (clinical commissioning group, health board, etc) or your LMC who may be able to offer further advice on the system in your specific area. If you are still struggling to access a vaccination appointment, then please do get in touch with us here at the sessional GP committee.
The site where you receive your first vaccination will generally be the same site that you’ll receive your second vaccination. If you find yourself on multiple waiting lists, remember to remove yourself from the other lists once you have received the vaccination.
Rachel McMahon is a representative on the BMA sessional GPs committee