‘Patients are your priority again’: GPs are told to resume normal service at surgeries after success of Covid booster rollout
- English GPs have been told to prioritise patients rather than offering Covid jabs
- NHS England fears the vaccine drive will lead to serious illnesses being missed
- GPs administered 6.8 million vaccines in December but saw fewer patients
Health bosses have ordered GPs to resume normal service after they axed millions of routine appointments to focus on the booster rollout.
Patient groups welcomed the diktat from NHS England, amid fears the vaccine drive had led to serious diseases such as cancer being missed.
Boris Johnson made it a ‘national mission’ to accelerate the rollout of the booster jab following the emergence of the Omicron variant. Surgeries were told to prioritise immunisations and put some non-urgent care on hold.
GPs have been told by NHS England to prioritise seeing patients rather than delivering Covid-19 booster jabs over fears that large numbers of serious illnesses may be missed
GPs helped administer 6.8 million Covid vaccines last month, but the number of patients seen fell from 30 million in November to 25 million in December
The move helped GPs administer 6.8 million Covid vaccines last month but the number of routine appointments offered fell from 30 million in November to just 25 million in December.
Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England, and colleagues have written to GPs telling them to resume business as usual because demand for the booster jab has waned.
The letter says: ‘This further guidance… recognises that as we approach the end of January, we anticipate there will be lower demand for booster.
‘It is now important that all services across the NHS, including in primary care, are able to restore routine services where these were paused in line with the Prime Minister’s request to focus all available resources on the Omicron national mission.’
Over half of Covid patients in hospital are now there ‘with’ the virus, rather than because of it
Over half the patients in hospital with coronavirus are there only because they are being treated for something else, figures published yesterday show.
For example, they may have broken a leg and tested positive on arrival at A&E. Of the 13,023 Covid-positive patients in hospital in England on Tuesday, 52 per cent were there for another reason.
Early last month only 25 per cent of patients were ‘incidental’ admissions. The number of Covid patients is falling fast, and only 561 people are now on ventilators compared with more than 4,000 this time last year.
A separate report from the UK Health Security Agency said that two doses of vaccine gave 60 per cent protection against dying of Covid to people over 50, but three gave 95 per cent protection.
The letter tells GPs they should reprioritise their work, with the management of long-term conditions, suspected cancer, screening, annual health checks and tackling the backlog of deferred care among the most important tasks.
It also stresses they must offer face-to-face appointments to patients who need them, following a rise in the proportion being held remotely. Only 61 per cent of routine GP appointments were in-person in December – down from 63 per cent in November and 64 per cent in October.
Some 80 per cent of appointments were face-to-face in December 2019. The letter adds: ‘The British Medical Association and Royal College of GPs guidance set out at the end of last year stating ‘we must reassure the public that general practice remains open and that patients will be seen face-to-face where it is clinically appropriate’, remains in place.’
Dennis Reed, from campaign group Silver Voices, said: ‘The booster programme was vital to save lives but there is a balance to be had and I am sure other lives will have been lost as a result of patients not being able to get an appointment. We are concerned that the proportion of appointments taking place face-to-face has fallen again and worry this will become the new normal. Patients should have a legal right to be seen in-person.’
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: ‘Many older people have told us that it would make a huge difference to their health and their morale if they could have easier access to GP services once again, so the sooner this can happen the better from their point of view.’
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘The December figures bring the number of appointments made in 2021… to an unprecedented 367 million. (This) is a testament to the dedication of GPs and our teams to delivering good, safe and appropriate care.’ Yesterday 96,871 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the UK and another 338 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
n A man who accosted Professor Chris Whitty in a park was jailed for eight weeks yesterday.
Jonathan Chew, 24, admitted a charge of intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress to the Chief Medical Officer following the incident in St James’s Park in central London last June.
Having been told to stop vaping in court, Chew – who appeared in his dressing gown via videolink at a previous hearing – was also ordered to pay £1,058 in costs and compensation. He sang ‘West Ham till I die’ as he was led from the dock.