Worried GP staff fear distributing the Covid jab is a Mission Impossible that will stretch services to breaking point.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised the “biggest civil project in history” to deliver millions of vaccine doses from the middle of next month.
But last night there were worries that planning for the massive task has been left late with…
CRUCIAL details such as deployment of thousands of volunteers still to be worked out.
OVERSTRETCHED GP managers, nurses and assistants already having to cope with a huge increase in flu jabs and a backlog of other patients.
FEARS for the mental and physical health of staff who will be expected to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.
One Midlands manager said: “It’s got to be done. We know our duty.
“These are the sort of people who won’t shirk their responsibility.
“But we are already at full stretch and it is going to be tough. Some people will make it through and decide that’s it, they’ve had enough.”
At least 42 mass vaccination centres will be created across England in sites such as conference centres, town halls, sports grounds and meeting rooms.
Staff from doctors’ surgeries will travel to the centres, which have been selected on the basis of size, transport networks and parking. Nurses, doctors and assistants from 6,813 surgeries will be allocated on a rota basis to around 1,560 designated sites.
The NHS plans to give every adult who wants one a jab by Easter, once a vaccine gets the green light within weeks. Over-80s, care homes residents and health workers will be first in line, with over-65s next in early January.
People with underlying health conditions and the over-50s will follow and the under-50s should get jabs from the end of January through to March.
Each person will receive two jabs, four weeks apart, although NHS officials stress that all plans are still provisional.
Key health workers will be treated in separate hospital centres.
Systems are yet to be worked out for booking patients for jabs.
Arrangements are expected to be decided at local level, with managers working against the clock.
Staff will be expected to do PPE safety procedures between each jab, though this will vary between a simple hand washing or a mix of gloves, apron and mask.
The vaccine will initially be provided in vials of ten doses, each of which will have to be separately mixed with chemicals before being given.
Teams of four – a nurse, practice manager, a doctor or qualified clinician and a patient “marshal” – are hoping to inoculate every five minutes.
Some surgeries are practising getting it down to three minutes to meet demand and give the vaccine while it is still viable.
The Midlands manager with 30 years experience, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s going to be an absolute nightmare and it will be on top of the day job of running surgery. There are more questions than answers right now.”
Mr Hancock has conceded the vaccination operation will be a massive logistical challenge for the NHS.
Asked who was ultimately in charge of the operation, he said: “Me. I report to the PM weekly. The NHS is leading on delivery and they will report to me.
“We have the top people in the NHS spending their entire time on it.”
But Mr Hancock’s pandemic record has tested the faith of NHS staff.
He has presided over the care homes scandal, drastic shortages of PPE, failed tracing apps and the “missing” 16,000 virus test results.
The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, will control the vaccination roll-out.
Military chiefs are reported to have put 12,500 troops on standby to help at the inoculation hubs and to race supplies across Britain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested another 30,000 volunteers will be available but there are no details of how these will be organised.
Similarly, no arrangements have been decided on how a further 30,000 promised by St John Ambulance will be integrated.
No firm date has been given for the arrival of a vaccine but optimism has grown with the referral of the Pfizer-BioNTech formula to the regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Britain has ordered £600million of that drug, along with the rival Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at £60m and Moderna’s for £46m. GPs will get £12.85 for each dose administered.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The whole nation is looking on this operation with hope.
“It’s now up to Matt Hancock to ensure its rapid deployment.”
Christine McAnea, assistant general secretary of the health workers’ union Unison, said: “We don’t want a repetition of the care homes testing fiasco.
“The Government has to get this right first time. There’s too much at stake to make mistakes.”