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Farewell to the face-to-face GP appointments…again: GPs will have 'other burdens' taken off them

The Government's push for more face-to-face GP appointments could be abandoned as family doctors become the frontiers of the UK's mammoth booster drive. 

Amanda Pritchard, NHS England's chief executive, said she is looking at how GPs can 'deliver even more jabs by cutting other burdens on them'.

Ministers had been pushing for doctors to offer more in-person consultations, which are still a fifth lower than pre-pandemic levels.

But GPs are now expected to be on the frontline delivering booster jabs to ensure every adult in the UK is offered an appointment by the end of January, in a bid to increase protection against the new Omicron variant.

Doctors and community pharmacists have dished out 'the lion's share of the vaccinations so far' and they will be paid £15 per jab they dish out over the next two months, Ms Pritchard said.

But it will likely mean fewer face-to-face GP appointments for patients, which are already running at about a fifth of the pre-pandemic level. 

Boris Johnson today unveiled the ramped-up booster drive to shield the nation against the Omicron, after eight more cases of the strain were found in England.

Plans include drafting in the Army, opening more vaccination centres and recruiting tens of thousands of volunteers to help with the rollout.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference this afternoon alongside the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Ms Pritchard said: 'Our hard-working GPs, community pharmacists and their primary care colleagues have delivered the lion share of the vaccinations so far. We are looking at how we can help them deliver even more jabs by cutting other burdens on them to free up clinicians’ time'

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference this afternoon alongside the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Ms Pritchard said: 'Our hard-working GPs, community pharmacists and their primary care colleagues have delivered the lion share of the vaccinations so far.

'We are looking at how we can help them deliver even more jabs by cutting other burdens on them to free up clinicians’ time.

Boosters for all by JANUARY

Boris Johnson today unveiled the UK's mammoth new booster vaccine drive as he pledged to deliver third doses to all adults by the end of January to shield the nation against the new Omicron supermutant Covid variant, after eight more cases of the strain were found in England bringing the UK total to 22 — but overall cases, deaths and hospital admissions fell, according to official data.

The Prime Minister announced he is drafting in the Army again to help deliver the programme and will offer GPs an extra £15 for every injection as he promised to deliver another 'great British vaccination effort'. 

A £5 bonus will be given to GPs per shot if they do them on Sundays and they will get a £30 premium for shots delivered to the most vulnerable who are unable to leave their homes. The Government is also recruiting 10,000 more paid vaccine volunteers and 'tens of thousands' more volunteers to help with the mammoth drive.

But it will likely mean fewer face face-to-face GP appointments for non-Covid patients, which are already running at about a fifth lower than pre-pandemic level. 

Scientists have cautioned that the boosters will probably not give the same level of protection against  Omicron as they do against Delta because the new strain is so evolved. 

But No10 hopes that the top-up in immunity will give people at least some extra protection against the variant. 

'And we will ensure they are properly rewarded for their efforts, particularly when they take time to visit vulnerable housebound patients who can’t travel to vaccination sites.'

GPs will get £15 for every injection they administer – up from the current £12.58 fee.

Doctors and pharmacists will also get a £5 bonus per shot if they do on Sundays, as well as a £30 premium for jabs delivered vulnerable people in their homes. 

And the Care Quality Commission, the regulator for health and social care services in England, will stop routinely inspecting general practice 'to free up clinicians' time', Ms Pritchard said.

But GPs getting involved in the rollout will likely mean fewer face-to-face GP appointments, which are already running at about a fifth of the pre-pandemic level. 

NHS England data shows 64 per cent of GP appointments in October were face-to-face, compared to eight in 10 before the pandemic.

Mr Javid announced a £250million package for GP surgeries last month to help doctors offer more in-person consultations.

But the plans, which include 'naming and shaming' practices not offering sufficient numbers, were rejected by doctors. 

Medics say some patients prefer virtual consultations because they are more convenient, but there are reports of vulnerable people not getting the access they desperately need. 

And coroners have warned that remote appointments may have contributed to deaths. 

One NHS chief executive said getting GPs to lead the vaccination rollout was 'a very big ask, on top of many other very big asks', adding it would be extremely difficult to hit the January target due to a lack of medics, volunteers and facilities after a third of vaccination centres closed this summer.

And a GP practice manager tweeted: 'Cash won't make much difference, it's the workload & workforce that's the problem. Is not just jabbers but the back room engine tracking and calling patients, organising rotas, sorting out logistics etc'.

In total 18million britons have had a booster jab so far and, after yesterday's guidance change, all 53million adults over 18 will be eligible eventually. At the current rate of 2.4million jabs per week, it would take until March to get everyone boosted

Combat medics from Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps vaccinate members of the public at a rapid vaccination centre, set up outside Bolton Town Hall in June. NHS leaders are said to demanding  them back to help with the current rush for boosters

Dr Farah Jameel, chair of the BMA's England GP committee, said today that less urgent appointments like routine blood pressure checks should go. 'We are bound by these contracts. We have been calling for that to be lifted for months now. We are a burnt out workforce', she said.

DON'T cancel Christmas parties! Boris and Saj try to quell hospitality fears 

Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid today tried to quell hospitality fears after health experts suggested it was 'sensible' for people to limit socialising over the festive period.

The Prime Minister urged people not to cancel Christmas parties or school nativity plays as he promised to 'throw everything' at the booster vaccination campaign to tackle the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

He promised that everyone eligible would be offered a jab by the end of January with at least 400 military personnel helping the NHS, and vaccination centres 'popping up like Christmas trees'.

Mr Johnson rejected a call from a senior health official to limit socialising in the run-up to Christmas, insisting that he had already put in place a package of 'balanced and proportionate measures' in response to the threat posed by the new variant. 

But as cases of Omicron reached 22 in the UK, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said they were likely to go higher and 'we have to be realistic' that there is already likely to be transmission of the new strain within the community.  

He added that people should get vaccinated to 'give ourselves the best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones'.

'What we are asking for a refocus of clinical priorities. We simply cannot deliver everything. We need to focus on clinical need. At this moment on time, the focus has to be on rolling out a monumental vaccination and booster programme and all hands on deck. We can deliver that but we are distracted by scattergun priorities. We do need to be released from contractual responsibilities'.

She added: 'There is this obsession with undeliverable targets. Since April all our contractual targets switched back on and that correlates with practices withdrawing from the vaccination scheme because we simply do not have the workforce.'

Announcing the new booster plans today, the Prime Minister revealed he is drafting in the Army again to get jabs in arms, as he promised to deliver another 'great British vaccination effort'.

The Government is also recruiting 10,000 more paid vaccine volunteers and 'tens of thousands' more volunteers to help with the mammoth drive. 

Mr Johnson told the Downing Street briefing that new vaccination centres will be 'popping up like Christmas trees'.

Scientists have cautioned that the boosters will probably not give the same level of protection against Omicron as they do against Delta because the new strain is so evolved. 

Some 22 cases of the Omicron have been recorded in the UK so far, with new infections today spotted in Barnet and Haringey in London, Liverpool, North Norfolk and Sutton.

No10 hopes that the top-up in immunity will give people at least some extra protection against the variant. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the Government has set 'hugely ambitious targets and we're asking a huge amount from the NHS'. 

'But I have no doubt that they will rise to the challenge, just as they have done throughout this pandemic,' he said.

Mr Javid said everyone has a 'role to play' in the 'national mission' and must 'roll up our sleeves and get protected when the time comes' to have the 'best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones'.