GP practices can now postpone minor surgery and routine health checks for over-75s and new patients until 31 March 2022 to ensure booster jabs are rapidly and effectively delivered.
The UK government have pledged to offer boosters to all adults in England by the end of January 2022 to combat the growing threat of the Omicron variant. Dr Farah Jameel, the GP committee chair of the British Medical Association, has said that the new measures will “release GPs from filling out paperwork, and chasing unnecessary and often undeliverable targets”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Jameel also said: “We have been struggling with significant prevailing workforce pressures – backlog pressures, winter pressures, pandemic pressures. Whilst these changes make a difference and start to create some time, I think every single practice will have to look at just how much time it does release.”
The new measures will ensure that boosters for the most vulnerable patients will be prioritised and will support the end goal of vaccinating as many of the population as possible by the end of January.
On the other hand, the measures have come under fire for being ‘counter-productive’ as deferring checks for illnesses such as strokes, cancers, and diabetes could exacerbate the patient burden. This is also expected to increase the pressure on the NHS, which is already facing unprecedented levels of demand and challenges such as long waiting lists.
A further 75 cases of Omicron were confirmed in England on Friday 03 December, bringing the total UK cases to 246, a number which is rising sharply and alarmingly. Over half of these cases are in the double vaccinated, according to health officials.