Patient safety is being put at risk by the decision to cut fees claimed by GPs for delivering COVID vaccinations, the BMA has warned the Government.
In a letter published today the association warns that NHS England’s decision to slash remuneration claimed by GPs for COVID vaccines by 25 per cent threatens vulnerable patients and undervalues general practice.
Writing to Parliamentary under secretary of state for mental health and the women’s health strategy Maria Caulfield, who has responsibility for vaccines, the BMA raises further concern with a possible one-month delay to the start of the flu vaccination roll out in England, due to commence from 1 September.
The decision to reduce the fee for COVID-19 vaccinations from £10.06 per patient to £7.54 was outlined by NHS England earlier this month, despite warnings from the BMA that such a reduction would make delivering the immunisation programme ‘very difficult’ for many practices.
BMA GPs committee chair Katie Bramall-Stainer said the cut in fees risked undermining public health as the NHS headed into the winter.
She said: ‘As we head into what is likely to be another difficult winter with the NHS under continued significant pressure, patients need to be protected, and our practices resourced and supported to undertake this important work.
‘NHSE England’s recent decision to significantly reduce the fee that GPs are paid to deliver COVID-19 immunisations, by over 25 per cent, both threatens the safety of vulnerable patients and undervalues general practice.
‘At a time when new COVID variants are emerging it is more crucial than ever that adequate resource is made available to GPs to support the delivery of an effective immunisation programme for those patients most at risk. COVID-19 vaccinations take more than double the time to administer compared with a flu jab, and these cuts put GPs in an untenable position where some will simply no longer be able to provide this crucial service.’
Vaccination in jeopardy
Dr Bramall-Stainer urged the Ms Caulfield to meet with her to discuss the association’s concerns with a view to developing an ‘effective winter immunisation plan’, warning that a delay in commencing flu immunisations could significantly effect uptake of the vaccine.
She said: ‘We are asking that you raise this with NHS England, as a matter of urgency, so that the adult flu vaccination programme can proceed as planned from 1 September, allowing vulnerable patients the best opportunity to be protected ahead of the coming months, in support of winter planning.’
She added: ‘It is also important to note that the risk of a COVID and flu spike could overwhelm hospitals with admissions in the months ahead.’