GPs leading Covid vaccines rollout have deliveries halved

Bill Gardner
·5 min read
Five million people in the UK will have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine by Friday - Darren Staples/Getty Images Europe
Five million people in the UK will have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine by Friday - Darren Staples/Getty Images Europe
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

GPs leading the coronavirus jabs rollout have had their deliveries cut in half by the NHS to allow other parts of the country to catch up.

Doctors in the North-East and Yorkshire region have been told their promised supply of vaccines will be halved next week because they have raced through priority groups so quickly.

Meanwhile, some GPs in the South-East were accused of holding up the rollout, saying they do not have the facilities to administer the Pfizer jab and in some cases demanding more money for carrying out vaccinations.

In the East Sussex constituency of Bexhill and Battle, only a single GP surgery is currently vaccinating elderly people across an area covering 200 square miles.

By Friday, five million people in the UK will have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine, up from two million last week. The figures show that 363,508 jabs were administered on Thursday – a record high.

Latest UK vaccines embed
Latest UK vaccines embed

However, the move to cut deliveries raises questions about constraints on national supply. One Whitehall source admitted the situation was "precarious", with both Pfizer and AstraZeneca having delayed some deliveries.

Sources told the Health Service Journal that the North-East and Yorkshire had been informed that deliveries of around 200,000 doses for GP practices next week had been cut to 100,000.

One GP in Northumberland wrote on social media: "Sadly no Covid vaccine clinics next week as no vaccine being supplied."

Responding, Nikki Kanani, the NHS primary care director, wrote: "Congratulations – this means you've made great progress on your most vulnerable to Covid/priority cohorts. We are making sure that this opportunity is afforded to all across the country at similar rates."

Data released by the NHS on Thursday revealed a postcode lottery in vaccination rates across the country.

In the North-East and Yorkshire, 67 per cent of over-80s have received a first dose, compared to 49 per cent in London and 58 per cent in the South-East.

Conservative MPs representing parts of Sussex and Kent are understood to have raised concerns with ministers at the number of GP practices and primary care networks in the South-East opting out of delivering the vaccine, leaving vast blackspots in rural areas.

One MP alleged that there had been "unseemly wrangling" from GPs over how much money they would be paid for checking patient lists and administering jabs. Practices are understood to have complained about the added workload, while others have said they do not have the means to store the frozen Pfizer jab.

Huw Merriman, the Bexhill and Battle MP, said GP practices had complained they did not have the facilities or capacity to administer the Pfizer vaccine and were waiting for the Oxford jab, which can be stored in a standard fridge.

"Some GPs in smaller towns have been vaccinating, whereas others residents living in similar-sized populations nearby have nothing on their doorstep and are still waiting," Mr Merriman said. "In rural areas, we are well versed with waiting – but this isn't a bus service, it's a life-saving vaccine, and there should not be a postcode lottery as to availability."

Mr Merriman said he had asked ministers whether NHS contracts could be changed so that smaller practices could be assured they would only receive the Oxford vaccine.

In neighbouring Kent, only one primary care network out of three in the constituency of Dover and Deal is currently vaccinating the population.

Natalie Elphicke, the Dover MP, said residents were "quite disappointed" that GPs had not yet joined the rollout, telling The Telegraph: "I think there is a disappointment that it has taken so long to get things off the ground, but I would say that things are definitely improving."

Dr Richard Vautrey, the GP committee chair at the British Medical Association, said the problem of GPs opting out of vaccinations was limited to "pockets" around the country including the South-East, adding: "There are challenges, of course, but the vast majority of GPs are raring to go and are only waiting for supplies of vaccine. Money is a secondary concern for GPs, but they do need support to carry out this work."

On Thursday, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, announced that two-thirds of care home residents had now had their first dose of the vaccine, up from 40 per cent last week. Last week, health officials offered GPs extra financial incentives in a bid to speed up the rollout of jabs to care homes.

Earlier this month, it emerged that GPs were being paid £1,000 to cancel second dose appointments for Covid jabs and given a script to follow to deal with angry patients.

An NHS spokesman said: "All available vaccine doses are being delivered to vaccination sites, and every GP-led vaccination site is receiving a delivery this week. To ensure all of those people in the top priority groups can get vaccinated quickly, targeted deliveries are being made to areas where there are more people left to vaccinate in the priority cohorts.

"GPs across the country are doing an exceptional job leading the fastest vaccination rollout in Europe and, in the very small number of places where there are gaps, neighbouring practices, large-scale vaccination centres and pharmacies are set to make sure every eligible patient is offered their jab on time, as promised, in the next few weeks."

On Thursday, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, said he was pleased that his mother Elizabeth, who turned 79 this month, had been given the jab.

He added: "I'm delighted to know she will have some protection against this deadly virus. Like everyone else, it's important that she also has her second dose when called for this. Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic, and I urge everyone to take up the offer as soon as they are called forward."