A thank you from NHS Wales Chief Executive

11 December 2020 

Before I start this week’s blog, I wanted to remind you that the workforce and wellbeing survey is still live.

We have had a good response this week, but every extra reply really helps. It only takes five to ten minutes to complete. We will feedback on the results to members in a future digest.

Please take the opportunity to complete the survey if you have not done so and provide us with the data to make the case for improvements in general practice in 2021.

Meeting Dr Goodall

Earlier this week Mair and I were pleased to meet with Dr Andrew Goodall CBE, Director General for Health and Social Services and the NHS Wales Chief Executive.

We talked in detail about a number of issues affecting the profession including GP wellbeing, e-prescribing, and the public perception of general practice.

Needless to say, the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine was also at the forefront of our talks, more on that shortly.

Dr Goodall specifically asked Mair and I to relay to you his sincere thanks for all that the profession has done this year.

He emphasised how important GPs had been to the response to COVID-19 and to ensuring that care standards and availability for those with other conditions were maintained as best as possible during very trying circumstances.

Vaccination questions

It is a magnificent achievement by all involved that a year after COVID-19 was first identified and just ten months since the first UK case, we have a vaccine in circulation.

No-one doubts the breakthrough the first vaccinations this week represent.

However, it is important that GPs have a full picture of what the vaccination programme looks like and what our role, if any, will be in the process.

Could there be seven variations?

Arrangements for COVID-19 vaccination have been devolved to each health board.

The role that GPs will play is still unclear and likely to differ from area to area.

We are aware that some health boards have contacted our members to request they be on standby for a further update regarding vaccine deployment, while in other areas of Wales there has been little or no communication with GPs relating to the vaccine programme.

This is not a recipe for efficient vaccine deployment, so this week Mair and I wrote to the Minister for Health and Social Services setting out a series of questions to seek clarity on behalf of the profession in Wales.

Our questions to the Minister

The questions asked were as follows:

  • What is the reason for each health board having to develop their own vaccine deployment strategy rather than for it to be operated on an all-Wales basis?
  • Who is acting as the central point of contact with oversight over each of the health board’s programmes?
  • What plans are there for GPs and their teams to be involved in immunisation for the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine and then for any subsequent vaccines?
  • Please could you confirm that all practice staff in patient facing roles will be given equal priority for vaccination as their hospital equivalents?
  • If GPs, including those no longer in clinical practice, or their teams wish to be part of the vaccination team beyond the role required of them by their health board, is there a centrally coordinated pathway for GPs to volunteer their expertise?
  • Who will be responsible for maintaining records to determine the levels of vaccination coverage among the at-risk groups?
  • How and when is it anticipated this data would be made available?

The College will update you when we have received the answers.

Post written by

Professor Peter Saul, Joint Chair of RCGP Wales

Professor Peter Saul qualified in 1985 and currently is a partner in Rhosllanerchrugog near Wrexham. He combines his work in the practice with his other professional passion of medical education, in the role of Associate Postgraduate Dean in the Wales Deanery. He also works one session a week running the Paediatric Allergy Clinic at Chester Hospital.

Peter has been an active member of his local RCGP faculty, serving as Chair and as Treasurer. He is also actively involved with the media, with a medical column in the local newspaper and as a regular radio contributor.

For fun he rides a bike (his favourite being his red Brompton), and when in need of a loftier perspective he flies his part owned light aircraft from Welshpool Airport. He lives on a smallholding and has three grown up children, one of whom is a junior doctor in London.

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