GP teams ready to deliver Oxford vaccine but need expanded workforce, says RCGP

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs and our teams are working incredibly hard delivering vaccines in the community and as long as there is supply, the approval of the Oxford vaccine the MHRA will escalate the scale and pace of the programme.

“The target of vaccinating around 2 million patients a week will be challenging but it’s necessary, both to protect vulnerable patients against this dreadful virus and to start getting life back to normal. GPs and our teams will work hard to make this a reality, as well as continuing to deliver our essential care and services to patients, and the expanded flu vaccination programme - but we won’t be able to do it alone. 

“This is why the College has been calling for unnecessary red tape facing retired GPs and other healthcare professionals wanting to return to service to deliver the vaccine to be cut. We need to see urgent action, so it’s been good to hear both the Health Secretary and Prime Minister acknowledge the need for this to be addressed.

“As well as workforce, it’s essential that vaccine sites have access to clear, concise and up-to-date guidance about how to best deliver the vaccine to patients safely and efficiently - and information about supply with as much notice as possible so that they can make necessary and feasible preparations to ensure the roll-out is as smooth as possible. This includes being able to give patients as much notice as possible about their appointment, which will likely increase uptake.

“When the Covid vaccination programme began in general practice,  there were teething problems – particularly pertaining to supply delivery and functionality of IT systems. This is to be expected with a new and complicated vaccine programme being rolled out at pace. As we move forward, it’s vital that lessons are learnt and that GPs and their teams on the ground, running vaccination centres, are listened to and if they have concerns, they are addressed.

“We also need clear public messaging to reiterate that both the Pfizer/BioNtech and Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine have been approved by the MHRA and are safe and effective, to encourage patients to come forward for a vaccine, when invited, and ensure vulnerable patients are protected quickly and there is good vaccine uptake.”

Martin Marshall also wrote the following Op Ed for the Daily Mirror:

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs 

The approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is going to be a game changer for general practice. GPs and our teams have been working hard delivering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the community, but this comes with huge logistical challenges. The Oxford vaccine is much more like other vaccines, like the flu vaccine, that can be stored and delivered more easily in general practice, and will allow us to vaccinate the population, starting with our most vulnerable patients, at greater pace and scale. 

Vaccinating around 2m people a week is a challenging but necessary target to tackle this virus and start getting life back to normal. But we need the workforce to do this. GPs and our teams are also continuing to deliver the vital care and services our patients rely on us for, as well as the expanded flu vaccination programme. We have potentially thousands of skilled, experienced retired GPs, nurses and other clinicians willing to return to the NHS to help out with the effort – but they are being hampered by bureaucracy. We need to cut through this red tape urgently, and get these people vaccinating. We’re pleased that this has been recognised by the Health Secretary and Prime Minister.

GP teams also need clear information – about supply of vaccine and about the logistics of how the programme will deliver. We need this with as much notice as possible so that we can make preparations, and without any last minute changes, which cause confusion and frustration amongst teams and patients. Our teams on the ground must also be listened to, and if concerns are raised about how the programme is rolling out in practice, they need to be addressed.

Finally, we need our patients on board. Vaccines only work if people have them, but they should be assured that both the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines have been through a rigorous process to show they are safe and effective. If patients are invited for a vaccination, we urge them to come forward and attend their appointments.

It will be a Herculanean effort for all involved, but it is a necessary one, and as long as there is supply, and as long as GPs and our teams are supported, this will be key to getting us out of this pandemic.

Further information

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RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574

Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.