One of the major issues has been the Government did not confirm the Covid booster jab programme until 14 September. Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid had been indicating people would get their third Covid vaccination from September along with the flu jab.
But when he finally announced the booster programme would go ahead there were few details or guidance on how the two vaccination programmes would be run alongside each other – with vaccinators being given just days to start administering boosters.
A clinical director at a primary care network in the south of England, who wished to remain anonymous, told Nursing in Practice: ‘There’s been a black hole of information around the boosters. Without clarity, there’s a lot of unnecessary work having to be done.’ A practice nurse in the south-west of England, who also did not wish to be named, explained her surgery had reorganised flu jabs to co-ordinate them with the booster jabs.
‘It has meant a lot of disappointed patients and extra admin too’, the nurse from the south-west of England said.
Adding to the pressure is nurses are playing catch-up to clear the backlog of services, including delayed shingles, measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations.
Practice nurse Elia Monteiro raised concerns to Nursing in Practice that the huge workload meant nurses were unable to give patients the time they needed, which could risk patient safety.
The BMA trade union has called for practices to receive extra funds to help them deal with the Covid crisis. ‘We went into the pandemic with far too few GPs, nurses and wider practice staff, meaning practices were already struggling to meet the needs of patients safety,’ BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Nursing in Practice. ‘As we head into what looks to be one of the most difficult winters most of us will ever have experienced there needs to be an understanding of the huge pressure on practices.’
The Government this month pledged £5.4bn to help the NHS clear the backlog of services. It was unclear how much, if any, would go to practices. An NHS recovery ‘recovery 10 point action plan’, also released this month, said practices would get a funding boost in the second half of this year.
But by the end of the month it was still ‘TBC’ when practices would get this extra cash and how much it will be. So practices were left waiting to know whether it would be enough and received quickly enough to really help them get through the tough winter ahead.