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NHS managers withdraw vaccination letter scheme without consultation

A local area team told practices they will have to invite over 65-year-olds for the flu vaccine by letter having previously run the service themselves, without consulting local GPs.

The Merseyside Screening and Immunisation team at NHS England wrote to practices to say that the service will no longer be delivered by Primary Care Support services, after the contract was given to Capita.

It is unusual for area teams to have taken on this service, but local leaders have said there has been ‘no consultation’.

The letter states: ‘As you will know, the national contract for PCS services has now been offered to an external provider, as a set of “core services”. These services do not include sending the over 65’s flu letter.

‘Because of this change, we are unable to arrange the sending of the over 65’s invitation letter from this year. Practices will need to fulfil their obligation to invite all those eligible for influenza vaccination, by other means.’

Dr Ivan Camphor, medical secretary at Mid-Mersey LMC, said that practices are being left to ‘fend for themselves’.

He said: ‘I’m very disappointed, we’re going to be discussing it at our next LMC meeting on 30 June and I will be writing to them to find out how they came to this decision and how they are going to help practices.

‘Practices will send out letters but a bit of help in partnership would have been greatly appreciated, especially in an area where there is increased deprivation – it does help fortify the message.’

But Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC’s clinical and prescribing subcommittee, argues that GPs are responsible for contacting patients in other areas and says that Merseyside practices were ‘very lucky’ if they have received this service up until now.

‘In my practice, for example, we use methods like notices, messages on prescriptions and telephoning because letters are so expensive,’ said Dr Green.

Readers' comments (3)

  • On this particular issue - I'm afraid most of us have had to do that all along, so tough titty. You've had it easy for a while, but these small graces are all being removed.

    But why do we call it a NATIONAL health service - it clearly isn't. Its a lot of vaguely related local and regional services which occaisionally touch at the edges.

    Why do PCS send cytology letters, but not flu? Why child imms and bowel cancer? Is there a rationale or is it entirely stupid and arbitrary? And now pharmacists are starting to give flu vaccinations and be funded by area teams, but GPs are still paying to send letters. Surely the solution is to separate the invite and the service delivery?

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  • Many of these local services were an option - and other areas opted for different additional local services.
    Is it possible to find the variation in services such as this across the country and what happens to the funds previously allocated to them (as well as the origins of these funds)?
    At present the plan might appear to be to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator by abolishing anything which is not a mandated central initiative - in the interests of equality of misery, of course!

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  • Text them if you must and let the other patients fend for themselves, or let the pharmacies do it. This government wants to kill off the old dears, as well as NHS GPs, so it doesn't think they are worth a letter.

    This service probably sends the letters just when there is a shortage or delay of vaccine anyway.

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