Coronavirus: Medics complain of 'bureaucracy' in bid to join Covid vaccine effort

By Mary O'Connor
BBC News

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Image source, Getty Images

When dentist Andy Bates offered to help administer the coronavirus vaccine, he hadn't bargained for the "overload of bureaucracy" he says came his way.

Dr Bates, from North Yorkshire, is one of a number of health staff to criticise the paperwork needed to gain NHS approval to give the jabs.

Some medics have been asked for proof they are trained in areas such as preventing radicalisation.

The PM said the health secretary would be "taking steps" to address the issue.

Asked about reports potential volunteers were being deterred by the additional training and forms about "de-radicalisation measures" and "fire drills", Mr Johnson told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday: "I think it's absurd and I know that the health secretary is taking steps to get rid of that pointless bureaucracy."

The NHS has previously said training and checks were needed for vaccinators.

Image source, Andy Bates

Dr Bates, a 56-year-old dentist based in Skipton, says he was met with layers of "bureaucracy" when he applied to be an NHS vaccinator - a paid role that requires healthcare experience.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I am a working dentist with a dental practice. I work four days a week which gives me a day off and the weekend, so I thought I could probably help out [with] explaining things to people, being able to use a needle, being able to relax people in an environment where you're giving them a jab.

"It's part and parcel of the job of being a dentist."

But he says he and two of his dental staff who also applied for roles have been asked to upload a "huge list of documents" and complete online modules proving they are trained in certain areas to progress their applications.

The checklist to become an NHS vaccinator

Recognising and managing anaphylaxis

Resuscitation, level 2

Safeguarding adults, level 2

Safeguarding children, level 2

Vaccine administration

Vaccine storage

Health, Safety and Welfare, level 1

Infection Prevention and control, level 2

Introduction to Anaphylaxis

Legal aspects of vaccination

Moving and Handling, level 1

Preventing radicalisation, level 1

Conflict resolution, level 1

Core knowledge for Covid-19 vaccinators

Covid mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 (Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine)

Data security awareness, level 1

Equality, Diversity and Human rights, level 1

Fire safety, level 1

Dr Bates says: "Some of the things are really quite sensible - like resuscitation, and recognising and managing anaphylaxis - but then you get things like preventing radicalisation, level 1 certificate required [or] safeguarding children level 2."

"Children aren't a priority for vaccination, [so] I really don't think we're going to be seeing children."

He says in order to be a registered dentist and CQC registered dental practice, he already has to prove he has kept up his various trainings every year, but having to separate them out according to the NHS website's requirements "would be really quite a task".

"I must admit, I gave up at the second hurdle, because I'm very busy as a dentist and I do get home quite tired at night. I thought 'good grief, If I have to go through all this', I'm not [doing it]."

Dr Bates believes that registered healthcare practitioners should be able to apply through their registration details, with a thorough identity check that would fast-track them through the necessary training.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first jab approved in the UK, and 944,539 people have had their first jab.

The prime minister told the BBC there would be 530,000 doses of the recently approved Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at 540 GP and 101 hospital vaccination sites on Monday, in addition to "the million or so" who have already been vaccinated.

Revealing there were a "few millions more" Pfizer vaccine still be used, Mr Johnson told Andrew Marr the jabs were being rolled out "as fast as we can", saying the issue was not one of "not so much one of distribution", and referred to concerns over the number of retired doctors to administer the jabs.

Image source, Sheelagh and Phil Clarke

Dr Phil Clarke and wife Sheelagh, a nurse practitioner, retired from their local GP practice in Southampton two years ago. But when the pandemic struck in March and the government appealed for retired medics to help out, they answered the call and returned.

Sheelagh and Dr Clarke, both 67, say they have already been administering the Pfizer vaccine to the over-70s and 80s, care home residents and other vulnerable groups through their old practice.

But when the couple recently applied to become NHS vaccinators, Sheelagh says they feel that despite their skills and relevant experience, that the NHS was asking them to "jump through 101 hoops".

She told the BBC: "You kind of feel like you're trusted and have quite major responsibility to go in and do vaccinating, and then a very belittling application tells you that they don't trust that you've got the skills and abilities to do it."

She said although they had done a lot of the required e-learning for their own practice, some of the other modules they'd been asked to do had left them "flabbergasted".

"We don't have time to do any more e-learning, we've already done a lot - probably about 10-12 hours- some of which are perfectly reasonable, like infection control, it's the unreasonable demands" such as "awareness of radicalisation and conflict resolution".

Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said recently retired medics and other healthcare professionals have "huge amounts of skill and experience" to offer the vaccine effort and called for "bureaucratic barriers" to be kept to "the bare minimum".

He added: "Requiring people to submit more than 20 pieces of documentation, some of which have low relevance to the task they will be doing, and some of which some retired medics and returners to the profession won't even have, is a deterrent for them getting involved at a time when we need all hands on deck."

An NHS spokesman told the BBC on Saturday: "Regardless of a person's background in healthcare, appropriate training and checks are necessary to handle the vaccine.

"[This] is why important processes are in place to make sure that former members of staff are up to speed on protocols and delivery, so that vaccinators are fully equipped with the skills to safely vaccinate patients in line with Public Health England standards."

The spokesman added that "tens of thousands of people have already completed their online training" which "are being processed as quickly as possible and vaccinators will be deployed as and when they are required".

He added: "It is categorically untrue that there are any delays in Covid vaccination caused by accrediting volunteers or returners."

Media caption,
The Princess Royal Hospital at Haywards Heath was among the hospitals receiving a delivery

The UK plans to accelerate its vaccination rollout, amid a rise in coronavirus cases driven by a new variant of coronavirus, by giving both parts of the Oxford and Pfizer vaccines 12 weeks apart, having initially planned to leave 21 days between the Pfizer jabs.

Public Health England (PHE) has clarified its guidance on second doses of the vaccine, after an article in the New York Times claimed there could be "mixing and matching" of the two different vaccines now authorised for use in the UK.

Dr Mary Ramsay, PHE's head of immunisations, said experts did "not recommend mixing" the jabs, but on the "extremely rare occasions" where the same vaccine is unavailable or it is unknown which jab the patient received, it is "better to give a second dose of another vaccine than not at all".