NHS Primary Care Bulletin – Weekly Roundup 17th Dec


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Dear colleagues,

The UK has recorded the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, and so we are incredibly grateful for all the work going across primary care to keep patients safe.

In response the rapidly changing situation, the government has updated its COVID-19: management of staff and exposed patients or residents in health and social care guidance to reflect self-isolation changes when in contact with a confirmed or suspected Omicron variant case. Notably, by next week Omicron will very likely be the dominant strain in most of the UK.

This letter provides an update to reflect the latest guidelines and applies to all staff including substantive clinical and non-clinical roles, bank staff, contractors and suppliers;  students working in all facilities, settings and organisations delivering NHS care and volunteers working in settings with patients.

The rapid expansion of the vaccine programme and the role general practice will play in this has been recognised by departments across government and a number of changes have been agreed with DHSC to help free up general practice teams which are detailed below in the bulletin.

Primary care access over the Christmas and New Year Bank Holiday Weekends

Local systems winter plans will have existing plans for appropriate levels of cover over the coming bank holiday weekends, including access to community pharmacy (further details below), extended GP access services and out of hours GP access through integrated urgent care pathways. We are asking all systems to keep those plans updated as the next week develops.

Vaccine capacity is now being increased, funded through the COVID programme. We encourage regions and systems to continue work to use the Winter Access Fund (WAF) to support the ongoing access to general practice for those who need it, in line with the existing principles of the Fund. The WAF may be used to fund contingency cover for bank holiday weekends over and above what has been previously planned. It cannot be used to fund vaccination capacity given alternative arrangements to support that.

It is also important that primary care providers update their NHS 111 Directory of Services (DoS) entry with accurate opening hours for the Christmas and New Year period (as detailed below).

Stay safe,

Nikki and Ed


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