‘Volunteer army’ needed to rapidly roll out Covid vaccine hasn’t been recruited, GPs warn

MORE help is needed to roll out the coronavirus vaccine as GPs claim a “volunteer army” has not yet been recruited.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed 530,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine would be ready by January 4, but serious doubts have now been raised about whether the jabs can be delivered on time.

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Around 3.5 million doses of the vaccine are set to follow in the coming months, alongside the Pfizer/BioNTech jab which is already being rolled out across the country.

Data from the government suggests that from December 21 to 27, 243,039 people in England received coronavirus vaccines.

This means that so far, 786,000 people have received the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

The NHS states that: "Of the vaccinations provided over this time, 524,439 were provided to people aged 80 years old or over, which is two-thirds of the total vaccinations given."

But as more vaccines are approved experts have questioned whether or not the staff levels in place will be sufficient.

Officials had previously claimed an army of volunteers would help get the jabs in the arms of millions of Brits.

Airline staff, lifeguards, military personnel and midwives had all been in line to get the vaccine out – but ministers claimed the NHS has enough volunteers to deliver the jabs.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said up to 250 teams of combat medics could be made available to help deliver the Covid-19 vaccine rollout across the country.


 

But the Royal College of GPs today told The Telegraph that a larger work force would be needed.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP council said so far, the number of jabs given have been possible with the workforce already in place.

He said that GPs and nurses having been taking time out for one or two days to deliver the jabs before going back into work.

Prof Marshall cautioned: “When we get into the kind of mass vaccination territory, obviously supplies permitting, we will need a larger workforce."

He added that the most important workforce would be retired health professionals.

He said: “I don’t think we’re going to go from where we are now, with 700,000-800,000 people being vaccinated, to two million people being vaccinated per week, I think that’s going to take longer than we suspect.”

Mr Wallace however said that there are already 133 army medics in the vaccine taskforce and that there are plans for 250 teams of mobile, medically trained staff who could administer the jab.

GROWING WORK FORCE

Speaking to Times Radio he said:"That would be over 100,000 a day they could potentially deliver if that is requested by the NHS – and we are planning to grow that if possible."

Since the start of the pandemic, many doctors and nurses who had previously retired from their roles signed up once again in order to aid the coronavirus fight.

But of the 40,000 who applied to return in March, just 5,000 had been recruited by July.

Volunteers from all sectors had put their names forward and many who required further training, such as optometrists and pharmacy technicians said their services had not yet been called on.

READY AND WAITING

The Ministry of Defence said it hadn’t yet received any requests to assist with the new vaccine but that it would be “ready when asked”.

Mr Wallace added: "We don't impose military mass and military personnel on people.

"If local authorities come to us, if hospitals come via the NHS or regional NHS to us, or anybody else – we find our armed forces assisting across the whole gambit of government – then of course we respond.

"We are always open to delivering that."

The NHS said it was training tens of thousands of former NHS staff for its vaccination programme.

Speaking to The Telegraph, a government source said: We are supremely confident in the infrastructure that's in place.

“That's going to be scaled up in coming weeks in line with the anticipated scaling up of supply."

It comes after it was revealed that GPs would be given a £10 bonus for every patient they give the vaccine to in care homes.

NHS England said GPs will be given the booster payment in addition to the £12.58 fee for each jab.

Patients will need to be visited on site and the NHS said that the extra cash boost will compensate for the “additional time and resources” needed to complete the vaccination.

The most vulnerable have been prioritised for the coronavirus vaccines and that includes those who are in care homes, and their carers.

Primary care networks received a letter asking service providers to ensure the priority groups get the jabs as soon as possible.

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