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GPNs fear another services backlog with ‘crazy’ Covid vaccine workload



Practice nurses have voiced concerns delivering the Covid-19 vaccine on top of an already high workload will mean routine patient care is once again postponed.

GPNs have told Nursing in Practice that limited time means they are already struggling to prepare for when general practice starts administering Covid-19 vaccinations from next week.   

An anonymous practice nurse working in London warned: ‘The workload will just be crazy. Without a doubt, some clinics will have to be cut because we just won’t have the staff to carry them out.                   

‘I’ve already heard of a few cases where cancers are found too late and people have passed away shortly after diagnosis,’ she added.  

Nursing in Practice highlighted over the summer the devastating consequences of pausing care services during the first lockdown.

Naomi Berry, a newly qualified nurse working at a practice in Bradford, said she is ‘overwhelmed’ with the new vaccine. It is ‘hard to squeeze in the Covid vaccine training’ among her other work and learning, she added.         

‘We’ve got to vaccinate 50- to 64-year-olds at the moment [for flu], which is 900 people in our practice, and then Covid vaccines on top of that.’

Ms Berry said her practice had told nurses annual leave they have booked over the Christmas period may be cancelled to deliver the Covid vaccinations.

Ben Scott, an ANP and practice partner based in Rotherham, said: ‘The healthcare system, from top to bottom, has not paused since the pandemic started. This pressure will continue and, if anything, increased.’

He also said: ‘There has also been greater hostility towards general practice, with people incorrectly thinking we’re closed. We’ve had our own staff abused.’

Helen Donovan, professional lead for public health at the RCN, acknowledged that ‘workload is absolutely a concern’ and has been ‘throughout the pandemic’.

The College is ‘supporting the push to have a wider workforce to support the vaccine delivery,’ she added, which must be ’under the supervision of a registered nurse and with proper training’.

The Department of Health and Social Care recently changed the law to allow a wider group of staff to undertake training to administer vaccines, which may help with workload. 

Practice nurses have previously expressed frustration to Nursing in Practice that they have not been involved in the Covid vaccine delivery planning, despite their expertise in mass vaccination campaigns.

Ms Donovan agreed it is ‘frustrating that nurses aren’t being mentioned around vaccinations as much as they should be’.        

She continued: ‘From an RCN perspective, we’re pushing back on that all the time. We should be using the language of general practice, rather than general practitioners, as it’s nurses who will be doing the majority of this programme with GP and pharmacy colleagues as well.

Nurses generally are absolutely pivotal to the success of the vaccination programme, as they are in all vaccine programmes. For GPNs, this is even more true because they have the experience in delivering routine vaccinations day in day out.’ 

She also urged nurses to be prepared to keep up-to-date’ with Public Health England guidance and access the College’s vaccine resource.    

Nursing in Practice’s recent explainer on the Covid vaccines answers all the need-to-know questions for nurses.