Workforce/HR/Employment law

RCGP guidance on expanding workforce to manage Covid vaccinations

The RCGP has published a document offering advice for expanding your practice workforce to manage the Covid vaccination programme alongside routine work. Read our highlights below and you can download the full document here.

How to recruit staff

The guidance includes tips on the routes to recruiting staff locally, encouraging the hiring of new staff under the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme via Primary Care Networks and GP returners, as well as asking existing staff and employing additional locums or sessional staff to take on extra work. GP Trainees should not be redeployed from educational activities, although they may be willing to provide extra sessions.

In addition, practices are reminded that NHS England has developed national supply routes for additional clinical and non-clinical roles that can be accessed by PCN groupings.

Funding staff

NHS England funding support available to practices includes:

Appropriate vaccination models

The guidance explains the appropriate delivery model for COVID-19 vaccinations, depending on the staff involved, namely:

  • Individual administration (or patient specific direction) by qualified independent prescribers (such as doctors, pharmacists, or some nurse practitioners). This may be appropriate for smaller scale vaccination operations.
  • Patient Group Directions for use by registered healthcare professionals without prescribing rights.
  • National Protocols for use by a combination of registered healthcare professionals and unregistered vaccinators. The national protocols break down the vaccination process into separate steps, only some of which require a registered healthcare professional.

As some staff may be operating as prescribers while others are operating under a PGD the guidance stresses it is important that the medico-legal basis for vaccination is clear in every case, and individuals must sign the national protocol or PGD where appropriate. Details of the legal mechanisms here.

Onboarding staff

The RCGP stresses that appropriate pre-employment checks must be carried out to ensure staff and volunteers are ‘fit and proper’ in line with CQC regulations.

It is the responsibility of the practice or PCN to ensure that adequate checking is completed. The NHS Employment Check Standards provide a useful framework of good practice for pre-employment checks, covering:

  • Identity checking
  • Right to work checks
  • Professional registration and qualifications
  • Employment history and references
  • Criminal record checks
  • Work health assessment

NHS Employers guidance on temporary pre-employment checks can be found here.

Employers must assess whether a DBS check is needed, based on responsibilities and level of contact with patients. Staff delivering regulated services need an enhanced DBS check, while individuals meeting patients face-to-face may undergo a standard DBS check. See detailed guidance via NHS Employers here.

An existing DBS at the right level may be appropriate if issued within the last three years, or if the individual is registered with the update service. Nationally deployed individuals may have existing DBS clearances, but this should be confirmed.

A fast-track DBS service is available for staff appointed to deliver pandemic related clinical services – details on the Government website here.


Most staff and volunteers providing clinical support will be indemnified through the Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice, practices’ third-party insurance (for locally recruited non-clinical volunteers) or national arrangements (for some nationally provided staff).

See NHS England / NHS Resolution guidance here and NHS Resolution FAQs here.


Nationally supplied staff should already have undertaken the required training, but PCN groupings must ensure locally recruited staff complete appropriate training.

Training requirements vary depending on individual roles.

Government guidance on training Covid-19 vaccinators is available here. Core training on immunisation from Health Education England is available here and on COVID-19 vaccination specifically here.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has confirmed that staff delivering only the vaccination programme do not need to complete certain mandatory and statutory training modules as follows:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Moving and handling
  • Equality & Diversity – on induction
  • Fire safety
  • Preventing radicalisation
  • Safeguarding children – level 1

Ensure you put a contract in place

Contracts should be agreed with all locally recruited staff and volunteers. This will provide a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities, and may be important in the event of medicolegal issues.

However, staff deployed via the National Workforce Supply Route will have completed an honorary contract or volunteer agreement, such that the Memorandum of Understanding between the PCN grouping and ICS lead employer will be sufficient.

All staff should be clearly identifiable to patients, for example by wearing badges stating names and roles.

Further information can be sought from BMA employment advice.

Vaccinate staff and volunteers

The JCVI prioritisation for Covid-19 vaccination is clear that front-line health and social care workers should be included in priority cohort two for vaccination.

This includes those working in the Covid-19 vaccination programme – students, trainees, and volunteers who are working with patients, as well as non-clinical ancillary staff who may have social contact with patients.

PCN groupings should ensure any staff have been appropriately vaccinated as part of onboarding processes.

Further information in NHS England operational guidance here.

Source: RCGP.COVID-19 vaccination in England: Ten top tips for getting the workforce you need. Published 2 February 2021     

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