GP practices in England should limit non-essential work to focus on delivering Covid vaccinations, according to new guidance.
NHS England wrote to practices setting out a range of measures designed to free up time to advance the vaccine rollout.
It asks CCGs to "take a supportive and pragmatic approach to minimise local contract enforcement across routine care" and to suspend any locally commissioned services that do not support the fight against Covid.
Commissioning groups are also being asked to look at redeploying clinical staff involved in CCG management to support practices or primary care network (PCN) work.
Income protections are being applied across a number of areas, including the minor surgery DES and several elements within QOF. Performance appraisals can also be suspended.
Responding to the new guidance, Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall said GP teams were working incredibly hard delivering both the Covid and expanded flu vaccination programmes.
"The approval of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine means general practice will play an even greater role in the Covid vaccination programme," he said. "This will mean that some workload prioritisation is necessary, focussing on de-prioritising non-essential tasks such as routine health checks, to keep general practice – and in turn the rest of the NHS – sustainable.
"It’s important decisions about this are made at a local level, taking into account the needs of local populations, and the RCGP is working with the BMA to develop guidance in this area."
He emphasised that GP services remained available and urged patients with health concerns to seek medical assistance.
- NHS England letter to GP practices – download the PDF