GPs are to suspend some routine medical checks so they can give booster jabs, it emerged last night.
With ministers fearful over the Omicron variant, non-urgent work will be dropped in a bid to ensure every adult is offered a third Covid dose before February.
Asthma, diabetes and heart patients are the most likely to miss out on monitoring. GP leaders say they will ‘inevitably’ have to stop doing low-priority work.
Family doctors could also be freed from checking the blood pressure of the chronically ill.
The vaccination dash is aimed at ensuring that no further virus restrictions are needed through winter.
GPs are to suspend some routine medical checks so they can give booster jabs, it has emerged and could be freed from checking the blood pressure of chronically ill patients (file image)
But it means that face-to-face GP appointments, which have only just started to increase after plummeting during the pandemic, are once again under threat.
The booster drive could also jeopardise efforts to tackle the enormous NHS waiting list – more than 5.8million patients are awaiting treatment.
Boris Johnson said on Wednesday night that GPs were vital to the acceleration of the booster rollout.
Yesterday Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘I am confident the NHS will work out a way where some of the workload of GPs can be temporarily suspended or GPs can be helped in other ways so they can concentrate on vaccine delivery.’
More details of what work they will be freed from are likely to be set out later today.
But Dr Gary Howsam, vice-chairman of the Royal College of GPs, admitted there was ‘a potential’ for face-to-face access to deteriorate once again.
Boris Johnson said that GPs were vital to the acceleration of the accelerated booster rollout
In total 18million Britons have had a booster jab so far. At the current rate of 2.4million jabs per week, it would take until March to get everyone boosted after the eligibility was expanded
‘We’re simply not going to be able to do everything we’re doing at the moment,’ he added.
‘GPs are already working to full capacity. If we’re going to divert our attention to the vaccination programme again, some choices will have to be made.
‘We can’t be doing all things, all the time. Our teams have been working incredibly hard for nearly two years now and we’ve just got to focus on those areas that add maximum clinical value to our patients, which is why we’re calling for a reduction in bureaucracy.’
He claimed many NHS targets were ‘tick-box exercises’ that had no clinical value.
Family doctors are seeing record numbers of patients because many who missed out during the pandemic are now coming forward.
But this means the number of GP surgeries offering jabs has fallen. In October, only 3.5million vaccines were given by GPs in England – compared with eight million in May.
The NHS has already agreed to offer GPs extra cash as an incentive, increasing the rate from £12.58 to £15 per Covid dose.
Routine inspections will stop and practices will be urged to open on weekends, with a bonus rate of £20 for any Covid jabs delivered on Sundays.
The RCGP and the British Medical Association are calling for ‘time-consuming and bureaucratic’ demands on doctors to be scrapped to allow them ‘to get jabs into arms as quickly as possible’.
Dr Farah Jameel, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said they would ‘need substantial support if we are to further accelerate the booster campaign’.
She added: ‘Practices physically don’t have the staff or spare capacity to manage the additional numbers of patients expected to come forward for boosters alongside all the non-Covid care and assessments their contracts have bound them to do.
‘If the Government wants more practices to get involved again with vaccinations they need to be freed from bureaucracy and lower-priority, centrally imposed targets – releasing time and staff so practice teams can get jabs into arms as quickly as possible.’
Her predecessor Dr Richard Vautrey called for the Department of Health to suspend ‘micromanagement’ to allow GPs to ‘urgently focus on the patients who need them most’.
The BMA’s demand for a reduction in contractual obligations comes after a ballot found eight in ten supported taking industrial action to reduce their ‘unsustainable’ workload.
The union is calling for the introduction of a new GP contract.