Under the measures, some minor surgical procedures, routine health checks, and funding indicators will be suspended

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Following the emergence of the Omicron variant of severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), NHS England has relaxed some targets to enable GPs to concentrate on accelerating the delivery of the booster vaccination programme.

In a letter published on 3 December 2021, NHS England stated that it recognised the pressure faced by local services, and announced the introduction of measures to create capacity and funding to support the increased vaccination effort.

These measures will include:

  • no contract enforcement will be taken where no activity is done under the Minor Surgery Additional Service from 1 December 2021 to 31 March 2022
  • from 1 December 2021 to 31 March 2022, where clinically appropriate, routine health checks for those aged over 75 years and for new patients may be deferred
  • some Quality and Outcomes Framework indicators—excluding vaccination, cervical screening, register indicators, and those related to optimal prescribing—will be subject to income protection based upon historical practice performance
  • all Investment and Impact Fund indicators introduced in April 2021—except those covering flu immunisation, and the completed work on appointment recording and categorisation—will be suspended and the funding repurposed
  • the Dispensing Services Quality Scheme will be amended to reduce the requirement for medication reviews from a minimum of 10% of dispensing patients to a minimum of 7.5% for 2021/2022.

NHS England also announced that additional funding would be available to primary care-led vaccination services to help them recruit and retain staff for vaccine delivery, particularly outside of working hours. Similarly, increased funding will also be made available to community pharmacy-led vaccination services.

In addition, routine inspections of practices by the Care Quality Commission will continue to be paused, and only risk-based assessments will take place where they are considered critical to safety and quality.

The letter concludes: ‘in their December update, the UKHSA [UK Health Security Agency] estimate that, as of 24 September, 127,500 deaths and 24,144,000 infections have been prevented as a result of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. As we approach the anniversary of offering the first vaccination in the world outside of a clinical trial, we want to thank you for your continued commitment to saving lives and protecting communities.’

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