One of NHS's biggest GP practices, Lakeside in Corby, Stanground, St Neots and Stamford, won't give Covid vaccination to under 40s
The surgery says it had to make a decision to opt out of phase two in the best interests of its 200,000 patients and its 'magnificent' staff
A super-practice with patients across Corby, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire has opted out of phase two of the government's vaccination programme.
Lakeside, one of the biggest primary care providers in the NHS, says that its patients who might have missed out on primary care over the past year are most in need of its services, and that hard-working staff who have not had a chance to take leave during the pandemic need to see an end-date to the programme.
The surgeries have delivered 81,177 vaccinations across four vaccination centres in Corby, Stanground, St Neots and Stamford.since December.
More than 22,000 of the Covid-19 vaccinations have been delivered at Lakeside Corby alone.
But now phase two of the government's vaccination programme, which will see less-vulnerable under-40s become eligible for the jab, is about to get under way and partners say it's time to bow out and let bigger vaccination centres take over.
The surgery signed up to the first phase at the end of November last year ahead of the vaccination becoming available to the general public on December 8.
Among the reasons for Lakeside's decision are that patients now have far greater access to vaccinations than was the case in December with the continued opening of mass vaccination centres and community pharmacies
A statement from the surgery to this newspaper said: "Patients still to be vaccinated are far more mobile and far less committed to wanting to be vaccinated by their GP than those in the top nine cohorts. As a result the ability to fill our clinics going forwards will become increasingly challenged
"We do not believe it would be in the best interests of all of our patients, particularly those with chronic conditions whose ongoing care has perhaps been impacted the most over the last 12 months.
"Our teams have done a magnificent job in staffing and running vaccination clinics and are committed to finishing the top nine cohorts but their continued enthusiasm will be challenged as the country begins to open up and they have increased options as to how to spend their spare time.
"Without our staff, not only do vaccination clinics not happen, but core service provision suffers and the backlog that has developed over the last 12 months will only grow.
"Our ability to supplement our clinic staff with volunteers will become increasingly challenged as lockdown eases. There is no certainty we can access staff, particularly admin staff, to organise and run clinics from other sources
"It is clear from speaking to colleagues that our staff need to see an end point to the vaccination programme. They have been supporting our effort for three months now. By opting not to be part of phase two, we can tell them we will have completed the job in another three months. If we opt-in to phase two, those three months will become closer to six by which time we commence flu vaccinations and, potentially, COVID boosters
"We need to enable staff to take their leave. As lockdown eases this will become more important to them as their options increase. This will make staffing vaccination clinics even harder.
"More than 40 per cent of our patients in cohorts eight and nine have been vaccinated at either a mass vaccination site or community pharmacy.
"As we don’t have visibility of this, it means our reception teams spend longer trying to book patients into clinics (including wasted time trying to make appointments for people who have made other arrangements) and if we do not fill clinics it means we have clinical and non-clinical staff not being used as effectively as they could be when they are rostered to work in the vaccination clinic meaning fewer appointments being available within the surgery."
Lakeside says it will continue to provide second doses to patients who received their first dose through the practice.