CONCERNS over the supply and delivery of the Covid vaccine have been raised by a North-East doctor who says clinics “cannot carry on working” under the current circumstances.

Northumberland GP Ben Burville said routine appointments were being placed on hold and staff had been left unable to plan ahead because of a lack of notice of when vaccines would be delivered.

Dr Burville, who is clinical lead for the vaccine site at the Coquet Medical Group, made the comments as he said he had not yet received confirmation his site would get supply next week.

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He told The Northern Echo that primary care sites could not “carry on working” for months, or a year, without the commitment from health bosses that a “proper notice” period will be given.

But NHS England says the general vaccine supply is a global issue, meaning it is subject to change, and is allocated and shipped as soon as it arrives into the country.

However, Dr Burville has warned primary care sites up and down the country need at least three weeks notice.

'Three days doesn't give a lot of time'

He said: “The vaccine rollout has been impressive and primary care and GP sites, Primary Care Networks, have all done an amazing effort and my colleagues across the country have done an amazing job.

“It has been done despite a very difficult situation but there has been a lack of notice about deliveries coming, sometimes being three days which doesn’t give a lot of time to get through more than 1,000 patients and get them into a clinic.”

Dr Burville, who said the current notice period can be anywhere between three days to a week, said a minimum of three weeks was vital to manage staffing and patients.

He said: “We know that up until now the supply has been the rate limiting factor, but going forward there needs to be an understanding and commitment from NHS England that we should be aiming for a month, or three-weeks notice, for vaccine delivery in order to plan ahead.

'We want to make sure we provide other services'

“This isn’t just for our staffing levels, which has taken a toll because they are seeing patients with Covid, but to get our patients organised and to make sure we can still provide all the other services.

“We still have doctors seeing patients, we still want to provide first class care for people including those with long-term conditions and those with serious mental health conditions.”

Dr Burville said certain appointments at his site had been placed on-hold over a lack of notice.

He said: “You usually get a weeks’ notice, but next week I haven’t got a clue if we are getting any vaccine and I don’t know when it will be – all of our nurses appointments are on hold because I don’t know if I will get a vaccine."

He made the comments as he said one neighbouring site had just three days to prepare clinics for the week ahead after Tuesday’s delivery was confirmed on Sunday.

'We need a commitment'

Calling for health bosses to also deliver the vaccine on set days to help manage the rollout, he said: “There are ten vaccine sites across Northumberland, all of those sites have given me the day they would prefer to have the delivery.

“Sites need their delivery on the day that the site needs to be at its most effective, not on a Friday when staff are already off, and off with Covid, some sites want it on a Thursday so they can plan and work through vaccinating people through the weekend.

“It’s in the patients’ interest – you can’t carry on working for months, or even a year, without a commitment to move towards a proper delivery notice.”

'Supply is a global issue'

In response, NHS England said that it allocating and delivering the vaccine as fast as it is delivered into the country, as it said that general vaccine supply is a “global issue,” meaning it is subject to change.

It added that the Department of Health are responsible for sourcing and supplying the vaccine.

But when asked, the Department of Health did not respond to our request for comment.

Earlier this week, the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government remained confident that it would meet its mid-February target of vaccinating the top four cohorts across the country.

He added that the UK was starting to store second doses of the vaccine.

Meanwhile last night, figures released during the Downing Street press conference revealed more than 13m people across the UK had now received their first dose of the Covid vaccine.