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Independents' Day

This year’s flu programme to be ‘biggest in history’, says Hancock

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said that this year will bring the ‘biggest flu vaccination programme in history’, requiring a joint effort between GPs and pharmacies.

It comes as GPs were last week told to ‘gear up for a major expansion of the winter flu programme’ as part of the QOF arrangements for 2020/21, with reports the Government may look at vaccinating everyone over the age of 50.

But this comes as GPs look set to face ‘unprecedented’ flu vaccine shortages as manufacturers have said they may not be able to provide additional stock being ordered for this winter.

Speaking at the National Pharmacy Association annual conference - held virtually today - Mr Hancock told delegates the Government is ‘expecting high demand’ as it plans for winter.

He said: ‘We all know that having had an incredibly difficult six months, the next big moment is as winter approaches. We're currently planning in detail for winter and we're expecting high demand.

‘We're working hard on a combination of the Covid vaccination programme, should a vaccine work - the science on that is as yet unproven. And of course, the biggest flu vaccination programme in history.’

He told delegates: ‘We're going to frankly need to use all of the capabilities at our disposal to deliver the vaccine programmes that we need to in the months ahead.’

Pharmacies will play a ‘critical role’ in the ‘huge amount of work to do’, including the flu vaccine rollout he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock reiterated that community pharmacists can take on 20m GP appointments for patients with minor illnesses to ‘take pressure off GPs’ and ‘deliver a better service’.

They can do ‘much more’ to alleviate pressure in general practice, he added.

He said: ‘I'm keen to see people with minor illnesses referred to community pharmacy - to take pressure off GPs, and crucially deliver a better service.

‘Twenty million GP appointments could be referred to community pharmacists every year. And there's much much more that you can do.’

Community pharmacies are an ‘untapped resource’ and the Government goal is to ensure they can operate ‘at the top of their licence’, he added.

Patients calling NHS 111 with minor conditions are referred for same-day consultations at their local pharmacy under the five-year community pharmacy contract last year.

The consultation service launched in October but has been paused during the pandemic.

If successful, GPs and A&E could start referring patients to the service within the next five years. 

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Readers' comments (14)

  • Gosh!

    That big hey?

    The biggest flu campaign in history?

    Only problem is Batch 2 of the Flu Vaccines arrive in December 2020....

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  • i smell a rat

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  • He isn't very clever is he? When they can't deliver becasue 1) NO GP capacity 2) No GP will take the risk 3) Not enough vaccine...what will he do then? Oh yes blame GPs and take whole thing away very likely

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  • The biggest cock up I bet. Surprised they havn't come out with the pearl if wisdom like 'Its a game changer'.Like the testing system, track and trace,nightingale hospitals,antibody tests,the PPE fiasco etc etc etc .One detects another damp squib lolloping over the horizon.This government hvent done very well the only thing we seem to lead the world in is the number of Covid related deaths we are up there with the best.Well done Boriset al we should give you a clap and bang our pans for your efforts.Although I think our kid will be paying for them for a long long long time.

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  • You bash GPs...then you need them desperately. Then you forget them. Then bash them again. Akin to the Eastern philosophy of cyclical suffering and punishment. There is an urgent need from each of us to instil some iota of liberation from professional slavery.

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  • If a vaccinator has to wash hands, put on gloves and apron, give vaccine, take off gloves and apron and wash hands every time as per current guidelines let alone “social” distancing in the queue, well good luck with that!

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  • New Zealand where it is winter and also shut down to incomers who must quarantine for 14 days have yet to see any cases of flu. Usually there would be lots of cases by now. So if we continue to isolate, social distance etc we may not see any flu. This may be one of the good things to come from the alteration to behaviour induced by pandemic. I sense they can't move on from their fixation with and their investment in the flu model of germs which proved so disastrous in the early days of this pandemic.

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  • compulsory flu vaccination for children would be better -- the little darling super spreaders

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  • why a bigger flu campaign this year?
    why vaccine shortages ? - half the recipients have died of Covid, there must be some spares!

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Good point re the social distancing affecting flu. But if we're going to see a larger target group, why not let people give their own to themselves? Or, if squeamish, or unable to, get a family member to do it?

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