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Secret Diary: Primary Care - August Round-up

So, we have a new Chief Executive of the NHS, following Sir Simon Steven’s departure—Amanda Pritchard, his deputy since 2019.

I personally feel that Sir Simon was a good exec; he grasped the realities of the issues with the NHS and he was a force for good across all sectors, in what in some people’s eyes is an impossible job.

I think that having a deputy take over the role is sensible and far better than bringing in someone with little experience. Hopefully it’ll bring some stability.

What would I like her to focus on when it comes to GP practices?  I think being honest with the public is of primary importance—not presiding over an organisation that issues statements without backing them up with facts.

I would actually shy away from asking her to focus on some of the problems within the NHS that have been going on for years, such as expectations and workload. Instead, I’d ask that effort is given in a few different areas that could impact on workload and make life somewhat easier from a different angle.

One of my biggest gripes now is the inadequacies of our IT—the clinical system and the general IT infrastructure. The current systems cannot cope with the workload and we in primary care are having to contend with slow systems, frequent timeouts, reboots, and access through the clinical system to some modules being hit-and-miss. 

When the national telephone system goes down, we all get affected and in 2021 this is just unacceptable. It’s a frustration for all staff, from admin to reception to GPs—and to us the practice managers, who have to sort it all out. 

Was the system ever as bad as it is now, or have we been ground down by Covid and other pressures?

A couple of weeks ago I spent over an hour on the phone to IT as my printer would not work. They tried everything and then said they would need to visit. I was off a couple of days and when I returned, I switched the printer on and it worked perfectly although no one had touched it.  This just wastes time and frustrates us.

Flu Vaccine and Covid Boosters

How about more clarity around primary care for the public, and not making comments that are clearly not going to be true, but sound good? As I write this (August 15th, 2021) the public are being led to believe that a Covid Booster and Flu Jab can be given at the same time in early September.

Great, but have we in primary care had this confirmed?

Of course not! We are in the dark as always.  As I understand it, no decision has yet been made but we have been asked whether we can give the booster if approved.  We have considered the request as others have across the country.  This request again is Primary Care Network-based and cannot be done from individual surgeries even though the restrictions on moving vaccines have eased. 

It’s more likely that practices could be prepared to administer their own Covid vaccines to their own population—but no, the NHS are saying if only one or two practices in a PCN want to do the Covid booster, they have to do the whole PCN population. Utterly unbelievable.

We, like many others, have reluctantly said we are not able to take on the extra work unless something else can stop, as happened last year. We are expected to resume full-service as well as QOF and CQC, and it’s just not reasonably possible after 18 months of such pressures, and no sign of any let-up.

If what we’re being told is correct, then any booster cannot be given until 26 weeks after the second jab has been given, so it will make organising combined flu and covid vaccinations almost impossible.

When decisions have been finally made, it will be primary care that will look bad, being accused of refusing to give out the booster, with the public not being told the real reasons.

The NHS and the government should not be playing such games. We are talking about human lives here and if there was a will on all sides to be honest, open, and truthful we could deliver a booster programme if that is the way forward.

I would love to meet with the new NHS Chief Executive, and the health secretary, to give them the reality and facts with no spin, and have it broadcast so the public can see the whole picture and not a distorted one.



In my view we should all proceed to give the influenza jab at the surgeries and the PCN Hub used to give the Covid Booster. Not sure where this 26 weeks comes from, I thought 70+s (which includes me) was from September.

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Practice Manager - London

Closing Date: 9 October 2021

Salary: £40,000 to £55,000 a year depending on experience

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