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Fact check: Payments for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines are to ensure general practices can afford to offer the service

A meme shared on social media suggests that the proposed payments to general practitioners for delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine is evidence immunisation schemes are “all about the money”. This is misleading: general practices operate as small businesses and the funding is available to ensure they can afford to offer the vaccination service to their patients.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The image was posted on Nov. 26 and includes a screenshot of a British Medical Journal (BMJ) article with the headline: “Covid-19: GPs to get £12.58 per dose to deliver vaccine from December”. Above this image are the words: “YOUR DOCTOR GETS £12.58 A SHOT! IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!” (here). The meme was shared hundreds of times and sparked comments such as: “Your doctors are in on the agenda”.

The BMJ article screenshotted in the meme was a real article published on Nov. 10 (here). The story reported on a draft deal between NHS England and the British Medical Association’s general practitioners committee to roll out a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The deal would see general practices receive £12.58 per COVID-19 vaccination.

However, this is not evidence that COVID-19 vaccination is a money-making exercise for doctors.

Most general practices are small businesses contracted by the NHS to provide medical services. They are generally run by a GP partnership, where two or more doctors work as business partners, according to the independent health and care charitable organisation The Kings Fund (here).

Most of the money practices receive are from a “global sum payment” from the NHS to fund essential services. The amount of this payment is calculated based on the number of patients each practice has and those patients’ needs.

However, “enhanced services”, such as national vaccination schemes, are paid for separately (here). This money is paid to the general practice, not individual doctors as the Facebook meme suggests. The confusion may stem from the fact general practice (the surgery) and general practitioner (the doctor) are both commonly abbreviated to GP.

The BMJ article says that general practices are normally paid £10.06 to administer a flu vaccine. This fee is increased by 25% for the COVID-19 vaccine due to “extra training, post-vaccine observation and other associated costs”. The BMJ article quotes from an NHS England letter outlining the proposal that was sent to general practice teams on Nov. 9 (here).

Martin Marshall, head of the Royal College of GPs, told the Times newspaper on Nov. 4: “It makes absolute sense for general practice, with our local knowledge and expertise, to play a key role . . . [However, the scheme] would need to be properly resourced.” (here)

Pulse, a publication for GPs, warned on Nov. 6 that administering the coronavirus vaccines will have “workload implications” for practices, but said that the £12.58 payment will make the vaccination campaign “cost neutral” (here).

The British Medical Association (BMA) published guidance for GPs about the COVID-19 vaccination programme on Dec. 3, answering questions such as “How can we manage this without significant funding for additional staff?” and “Can this be done with the proposed level of funding?” (here).

VERDICT

Misleading. The fact general practices will be paid to vaccinate people is not evidence the COVID-19 vaccination programme is “all about the money”. GPs are small businesses paid by the NHS to offer health care and receive additional funding in exchange for delivering “enhanced services” such as vaccination programmes.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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