Sajid Javid says GPs’ workload will be slashed to focus on ‘new national mission’ booster drive to beat Omicron with face-to-face appointments set to take hit again — as report warns of 740,000 ‘missing’ urgent cancer referrals already
Sajid Javid today admitted GPs’ workload will be shifted to focus on the booster campaign in a dramatic U-turn — as fears grow that face-to-face appointments with doctors will once again take the hit.
The Health Secretary said getting third doses into people’s arms to protect against the Omicron variant had become the ‘new national mission’, after months of strong-arming GPs into seeing more non-Covid patients in-person.
No10 last night set the target of offering more than 50million booster jabs to every adult by the end of January, which will involve massively ramping up the current drive which is barely reaching 2.5m per week.
GPs will once again be a key anchor of the vaccination programme and will be incentivised with doctors getting £15 for every jab delivered with a £5 bonus per shot delivered on Sundays and a £30 premium for jabs delivered to vulnerable people in their homes.
Asked if he would lighten the load for doctors who have complained about excess work, Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Ja – this is our new national mission in terms of the public health of this country there is nothing more important.
‘We are working at pace with GP representatives in the last two days, in how we can free up some of their time. I won’t set that out now myself, it will be set out by NHS directly.’
There are fears on what impact re-prioritisation will have on face-to-face appointments with GPs which only last month crept up to 64 persent verlede maand, but are massively below pre-pandemic levels.
There are also concerns about the wider impact the shift could have on non-Covid care, with record A&E wait times, and heart attack and stroke patients facing average waits for an ambulance of nearly an hour with Mr Javid himself warning last month that emergency care was being put under significant strain because patients were struggling to see GPs in person.
Health secretary Sajid Javid has said the new ‘national mission’ for the health system was delivering vaccines, adding that there was ‘noting more important’
The above graph shows how the NHS waiting list could grow up to 2025. The National Audit Office warns if 50 per cent of missing patients return and demand grows at 3.2 per cent a year then the list could surge above 12million. But should the NHS manage to increase treatments dished out by more than 10 per cent a year then the list should stabilise at 8million in 2024 before falling slightly, het hulle voorgestel
The proportion of cancer patients starting treatment within a month fell to the lowest level since records began in September, latest figures show. Records were started in 2009. The health service’s own standards set out that 96 per cent of people should begin treatment, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, binne 30 days of it being approved
In total 18million Britons have had a booster jab so far and, after yesterday’s guidance change, all 53million adults over 18 will be eligible eventually. Teen die huidige tempo van 2,4 miljoen jabs per week, it would take until March to get everyone boosted
Despite the total A&E admissions in England being just two per cent more than August and equal to the number of people who came forward during the same month (Oktober) in 2019, 7,059 patients were forced to wait more than 12 hours to be seen at A&E. The record-high figure is 40 per cent more than the 5,024 forced to wait that long one month earlier
The NHS waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England has reached 5.83million, official data revealed today marking the eleventh month in a row that the figure has hit a record high. Some 1.6million more Britons were waiting for elective surgery — such as hip and keen operations — at the end of September compared to the start of the pandemic
The NHS has long struggled to meet its recommended ambulance response times for Category 2 incidents which include medical emergencies such as strokes and severe burns but the last few months months have seen unprecedented rise with patients waiting nearly an hour on average for an ambulance after calling 99.
Noting the target that everyone should have received an offer of a third Covid vaccine by the end of January, Mr Javid added: ‘This is a huge thing we are trying to achieve – it is essential that we do this.’
But doctors have warned other aspects of their work will have to take a backseat as they shift to pritoritising vaccines.
Vulnerable people turned away at booster appointment after NHS error
NHS Lanarkshire sent letters offering appointments to people in the most vulnerable categories with dates and times to receive their next jab.
But when they arrived at vaccination centres including South Lanarkshire Council’s headquarters in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, staff had to turn people away.
Letters had already been sent out when the error was noticed by staff and a number of those affected could not be contacted.
Bosses said an admin error led to people on the vulnerable list being wrongly offered booster appointments before the recommended time limits between jags had passed.
NHS Lanarkshire has vowed to ensure all those affected by the error are offered a booster jab after the 24 week period has passed.
One woman turned up for her booster jab at Hamilton but was turned away because her appointment letter had been incorrectly sent.
Sy het gese: “I’m in the vulnerable category and was delighted when my letter arrived with the appointment to come and get the booster.
“But when I arrived I was turned away at the door and told that because of an error I wouldn’t be able to get my jab and would have to wait.
“It seemed to be happening to a fair few of us in the queue.
“I wasn’t told there had been an error and it really should have been picked up sooner than it was.”
Mr Javid famously entered into a war of words with GPs earlier this year, demanding they increase the number of face-to-face appointments and, at one-point, threatening the profession with a ‘name and shame’ system for underperforming surgeries.
Responding to the increased booster drive, vice chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Gary Howson hinted that decisions will need to be made on what kind of doctors can provide said: ‘GPs are already working to full capacity at the moment.
‘And if we’re going to divert our attention to the vaccination programme then there are some decisions that have to be made as to where we have most clinical value.’
Nodding to face-to-face appointments, Dr Howson added that GPs will have to prioritise some elements of their work in the coming months and called for greater Government support to slash the bureaucracy that eats into patient care.
‘GPs are under immense pressure – we carried out 34million consultations in October, 2million more than September and 7million more than August and two thirds were face to face,’ hy het gesê.
‘We need to understand what we will be able to stop doing. Tick box exercises, audits, and things that take us away from work and we need the Government to deliver on its manifesto pledges to bring in 6,000 more GPs, en 26,000 more team members by 2024.’
The Government has already drafted 400 army medics and 1,500 pharmacies are in to the booster campaign to turbocharge the pace of the rollout.
But in potential a sign of things to come Dr Farah Jameel, chair of the BMA’s England GP committee yesterday said that less urgent appointments like routine blood pressure checks should go. ‘We are bound by these contracts. We have been calling for that to be lifted for months now. We are a burnt out workforce’, sy het gese.
‘What we are asking for a refocus of clinical priorities. We simply cannot deliver everything. We need to focus on clinical need. At this moment on time, the focus has to be on rolling out a monumental vaccination and booster programme and all hands on deck. We can deliver that but we are distracted by scattergun priorities. We do need to be released from contractual responsibilities’.
If the number of face-to-face GP appointments suffers from the push for Covid boosters, it will be a blow to patients who have recently seen an uptick in being able to see doctors in person although the number is massively below pre-pandemic levels.
NHS England data shows 64 per cent of GP appointments in October were face-to-face, compared to eight in 10 before the pandemic.
Who can get a booster jab at the moment, how long is the wait and when can anyone over the age of 18 get one?
Who has had a booster jab so far?
Around 17.9million Britons over the age of 40, NHS workers and the clinically vulnerable have had the booster jab since the campaign began in September.
Enigiemand ouer as 40 or in the above groups can still book one on the NHS website or via the 119 diens.
Most of the jabs are being carried out by pharmacies with a wait of around a month for a third vaccination.
What has changed with the booster rollout?
13million people aged 18 aan 39 in the UK will now also be eligible for a third dose, bringing the total to 53million.
The interval between the second and third dose has been halved from six months to three months.
They will get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, even if they received the AstraZeneca jab for their first two doses.
Why the change?
The threat of a new wave caused by the Omicron variant means officials want to increase immunity in the population to ensure there is no threat of new restrictions in the run up to Christmas.
Boosters – which increase protection against infection to 93 per cent against Delta – are seen as the best way of doing this.
The interval has been slashed to three months because this is long enough gap to top-up immunity, while also maximising the number of people who can get the jab before Omicron hits.
How will the NHS run the ramped-up booster programme?
The NHS will have to drastically increase the number of booster jabs it delivers, which is currently averaging around 366,000 n dag. They have asked for volunteers to come forward to help with the ‘vital national effort’. The boosters will be prioritised in the same way as the initial vaccine rollout – in descending order by age group. Professor Van-Tam stressed: ‘We don’t want people from the very youngest somehow getting in front of people who are at much higher risk of a bad outcome.’
How will I be invited for the booster?
Under-40s will be invited to book by their GP in descending order by age group.
Over-40s can also book online through the National Booking Service, by ringing 119, or attending walk-in centres.
The Prime Minister is likely to set out more details today. Ministers are determined to turbocharge the booster rollout, increasing the number of jabs delivered per week from around 2.5million to closer to 4 million in the lead up to Christmas, with the aim of offering every adult a booster by the end of January.
Verlede maand, Mr Javid announced a £250million package for GP surgeries to help doctors offer more in-person consultations.
But the plans, which included ‘naming and shaming’ practices not offering sufficient numbers of face-to-face appointments, were rejected by doctors.
Medics have argued some patients prefer virtual consultations because they are more convenient, but there are reports of vulnerable people not getting the access they desperately need.
And coroners have warned that remote appointments may have contributed to deaths.
One NHS chief executive said getting GPs to lead the vaccination rollout was ‘a very big ask, on top of many other very big asks’, adding it would be extremely difficult to hit the January target due to a lack of medics, volunteers and facilities.
And one GP practice manager tweeted: ‘Cash won’t make much difference, it’s the workload & workforce that’s the problem. Is not just jabbers but the back room engine tracking and calling patients, organising rotas, sorting out logistics etc’.
The potential consequences of a lack of GP face-to-face appointments were laid bare yesterday after a National Audit Office report detailed millions of patients had missed out on vital care during the pandemic – and could now return to the health service to increase the backlog.
One key aspect of this was between 240,000 en 740,000 ‘missing’ urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer from March 2020 tot September 2021. And between 35,000 en 60,000 fewer people started treatment for cancer than would have been expected during this time frame.
The report authors said it is uncertain how many ‘missing’ cases will return to the NHS over the coming months.
Maar as 50 per cent seek treatment, and activity continues to grow in line with pre-pandemic plans, the waiting list would reach 12 million by March 2025.
The current waiting list for NHS care already stands at a record 5.83 miljoen.
NHS England data shows that in February 2020, net 83 per cent of patients were seen within the 18-week standard. By last month, this had fallen to 66 persent.
The NAO report also suggested Boris Johnson’s controversial new ‘health and social care levy’ would be inadequate to prevent hospital waiting lists continuing to soar. The report is likely to add to fears the NHS will swallow up almost all of the money from the new levy in the coming years, leaving little for the collapsing social care sector.
The impact of the Covid backlog is also being felt in the nation’s A&E departments.
Despite total emergency department admissions in England being in October being equal to the number of people who came forward during the same month in 2019, 7,059 patients were forced to wait more than 12 hours to be seen at A&E. The record-high figure is 40 per cent more than the 5,024 forced to wait that long one month earlier.
And average ambulance response time for heart attack and stroke patients is now nearly an hour, which paramedics admitted is putting patients’ lives ‘at risk’. 999 response times for category two calls are now three times above the health service’s 18-minute safety target.
Boris Johnson unveiled the ramped-up booster drive yesterday to shield the nation against the Omicron variant, after eight more cases of the strain were found in England.
As part of the plans the Government is also recruiting 10,000 more paid vaccine volunteers and ‘tens of thousands’ more unpaid volunteers to help with the mammoth booster drive as well as drafting in 1,500 community pharmacies.
But Tory MPs today blasted the Government after it emerged new rules on self-isolation will be enshrined in law until March, sparking fears the curbs could remain in place far beyond a promised three week review.
A new restriction came into force yesterday which will require people who have been in contact with a case of the Omicron coronavirus variant to self-isolate for 10 days or risk a fine of up to £10,000.
Boris Johnson has said that rule, along with requirements to wear face masks in shops and on public transport and for returning travellers to take a PCR test on or before day two after arrival, will be reviewed before Christmas.
But the regulations underpinning the self-isolation rule are not due to expire until March 24, prompting a backlash from anti-lockdown Tories.
Conservative MPs have expressed concerns that the new rule could cause a fresh ‘pingdemic’ which could devastate the economy and education system.
But Mr Javid dismissed those concerns as he said the current number of Omicron cases is still ‘very low’ met 22 confirmed cases across the UK.
He also echoed comments from the prime minister in telling people they do not need to cancel Christmas parties or school nativity plays.
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief Dr Jenny Harries sparked Tory fury yesterday after she said people should limit socialising to slow the spread of the variant.
Mr Johnson rejected that advice as he said the Government had already put in place a package of ‘balanced and proportionate measures’ in response to the threat posed by Omicron.
Mr Javid repeated that position this morning as he said people ‘should continue to behave in the way that they were planning to behave over Christmas’ and ‘I don’t think there is any need to change those plans’.
Egter, the Health Secretary risked plunging the new rules into further chaos after he said he would take a Covid test before attending a Christmas party.
He said that testing before a party is ‘not a formal recommendation in the guidance’ but he would take a test if he was attending such an event as a ‘sensible precaution’.
MPs voted yesterday to overwhelmingly support Mr Johnson’s new rule on self-isolation by 431 stemme aan 36, as 32 Tories rebelled to vote against it.
Tory backbenchers are worried that while the Government has said the restrictions will be reviewed in three weeks, ministers could subsequently act to keep them in place.
The rule on compulsory face masks will expire on December 20 but the rule on self-isolation will be enshrined in law until March 24.
Former chief whip Mark Harper raised the expiry date issue with Vaccine Minister Maggie Throup yesterday as he said: ‘The Government have said that they are going to review these measures after three weeks and she is right—on the face masks, the regulations expire on 20 December—but the self-isolation SI (statutory instrument) has no expiry date, which means it will run all the way until the main statutory instrument expires on 24 Maart 2022. Why is that?’
Ms Throup said Mr Harper had made a ‘very good point’ but insisted ‘we will not continue to have these regulations in place for any longer than is necessary’.
Mr Harper said: ‘While ministers have been clear that the regulations will be reviewed in three weeks… the regulations are not time limited; they amend another set of regulations that do not have an expiry date until March next year.
‘Although the minister tells me that they will not be enforced for a day longer than necessary, she must recognise that, given the events of the past few weeks and how ministers handled, onder andere, the standards measures, there has been a diminution in trust between backbenchers and ministers.’
Government sources told Politico that the March date is the result of a technical issue relating to how the change was made in legislation and have stressed the important moment is the three-week review.
The new rule on self-isolation has prompted fears among Tory MPs of a potential return to the ‘pingdemic’ which wreaked havoc across the country earlier this year as thousands of people were told to stay at home.
Tory MP Steve Brine said: ‘We are not just looking at a pingdemic in our economy and in our businesses; we are looking at a pingdemic that will devastate education again.
‘After everything that we have learned—everything that I have felt in my own family—are we really, ernstig, going to do that to our children again?’
Fellow Tory MP Craig Mackinlay said: ‘I am afraid that the proposals mean we are going to fall into a new pingdemic.’
But Mr Javid today said he is not worried about a potential ‘pingdemic’ because the number of Omicron cases is still ‘very low’.
Hy het aan Sky News gesê: 'Geen, no I am not. At this point in time the case numbers are very low. I think throughout the UK we have got 22 confirmed cases at the moment.
‘Nou, that will go up, it will certainly go up, but the numbers are low, I hope it sort of stays that way.
‘So, I am not worried about a pingdemic type situation but we have always also said that even before we knew about the variant in our Plan A we have always been clear that as you get into deeper winter, the colder, darker days, the virus likes that, not just this virus, the flu virus, they like that.
‘So as we do that then people should just be careful to try and think can they ventilate a room and just follow the current guidance.’
Dr Harries sparked a Tory backlash and warnings from the hospitality industry yesterday after she said decreasing social contact ‘a little bit’ could help slow the spread of the new variant.
She said that ‘if we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually that helps to keep the variant at bay’.
Downing Street subsequently slapped down the advice as it stressed a reduction in socialising is not part of the Government’s response to Omicron.
Mr Johnson later echoed a similar sentiment at a Number 10 press conference as he said Christmas parties should still go ahead.
Mr Javid was asked for his opinion on the issue this morning as he said: ‘I think people should continue to behave in the way that they were planning to behave over Christmas.
‘I don’t think there is any need to change those plans. The only changes that have been made in the last few days are the ones that everyone now knows about.
‘It might effect your international travel plans, so if someone had plans to travel over Christmas then there could be an impact there.
‘There is the need to self-isolate if you come into contact with someone with Omicron.’
The Health Secretary was also asked if people should take a coronavirus test before attending a Christmas party.
He replied: 'Ek sal. ek sal. It is not a formal recommendation in the guidance but if I was going to a party with lots of party and things I would.
‘But I would have done that by the way even before we knew about this variant.
‘Weereens, the reason I would have done that is because it is getting cold, it is getting darker, we are spending more time indoors, probably more people indoors than before just because of the colder, darker days, so a sensible precaution that everyone can take.’