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Independents' Day

‘Time running out’ for GPs to plan flu delivery amid specification ‘delay’

GPs have warned that ‘time is running out’ for them to plan for this year’s expanded flu programme amid scant details about how it should be delivered.

Last week, the Government announced the expanded cohort for this year’s flu programme which will include all those over 50, shielded patients and their households and all school year groups up to Year Seven.

However, a spokesperson for NHS England told Pulse that the new flu letter setting out the details of the programme - including around payment - will be published in the next week or so.

North Staffs LMC secretary and BMA GP Committee policy lead on NHS England Dr Chandra Kanneganti told Pulse he is concerned about the ‘delay’ to the details as practices have until 1 September before the start of the programme.

He said: ‘My worry is that the time is running out. We need proper guidance - yes this letter is coming next week but that means it’s only one month left for general practice to plan. 

‘We need to prepare and we only have just over a month and we don’t know where we’re going to get the PPE.’

And while practices will focus on the most at-risk patients to start with, they need guidance on when to start vaccinating the ‘huge chunk’ of additional groups, including those aged 50 to 64, Dr Kanneganti added.

However, he told Pulse that it will be ‘impossible’ for practices to deliver the programme in three months without other services or QOF work being reduced.

In Staffordshire, the eligible cohort has doubled from around 300,000 last year, he added.

He said: ‘At a rough estimate, in Staffordshire alone we have to vaccinate 600,000 people who are eligible. [We have] around 190 general practices to finish 600,000 - it’s going to be a big task.

‘If the Government is serious, they need to think about what other work they will ask us to stop so that we can focus on getting this immunisation to the record level to protect our population.’

Meanwhile, CCGs are taking matters into their own hands while they wait for official guidance.

Dr Kanneganti told Pulse that Stoke CCG has said it will support practices with ordering additional flu vaccine stock and ‘take care of the PPE’.

The CCG has been ‘proactive’ in forming a flu steering group with North Staffs LMC and the local NHS England team to coordinate and monitor progress on an ‘almost weekly basis’, he added.

And Essex CCGs are working together to ‘mobilise and deliver’ the programme, including exploring 'additional provision' if practices do not have enough capacity to deliver the programme.

In an email to practices seen by Pulse, the five Mid and South Essex CCGs said: ‘Given the scale of this year’s programme, it is likely that additional provision will need to be put in place. The CCGs will shortly circulate a capacity modelling template for practices to complete.’

Shielded patients and their households and children up to Year Seven will be among the 37m eligible for the free flu vaccination this year, as well all those aged over 50 as part of a staggered delivery ‘later in the season’, the Government announced on Friday.

Pulse revealed that GPs will be expected to use the flu stock they have already ordered to deliver the prorgamme in the first instance - although GPs have already expressed fears over 'unprecedented' flu vaccine shortages.

And Pulse revealed last week that one of the UK's key suppliers of flu vaccines will not be able to get almost a third of ordered stock to GP practices until November. 

Meanwhile, earlier this month the BMA said it was in discussions with NHS England about GPs using ‘sites other than practices’, such as marquees and car parks, to administer the flu jab this year.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Policy on the hoof as usual, with soundbites and pie in the sky thinking. Not enough vaccine, not enough PPE, not enough staff, not enough hours. Reimbursement for delivery - you must be joking.

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  • Will be a successful and value for money as all the other 'world beating' political agenda led covid era fads.Nightingale hospitals,testing,PPE,track and trace, the NHS app etc etc etc.World leading pull the other one its got bells on.Your dealing with a service that ordered its vaccine a year ago.Not one of us will order extras and take the increased financial risk without the concrete promise emitting from the treasury.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Looking at this matter from a political point of view :
    (1) The government ‘pledge’ if an expanded flu campaign is not different from previous promises e.g. 5000 more GPs , 100,000 Covid testings during the first wave (arguably we are still in it) . The numbers of U-turns , including in other political issues , have become its own political norm .
    (2) One difference this time round is the government being seen as ‘really prepared’ for the winter pressure plus a potential second spike ( I am conscious many academics do not currently support the terminology ‘second wave’ with no precise definition) of Covid 19.While its credibility is in tatters , the government is running out of gas as far as its spin-machineries for NHS are concerned . They desperately need ‘results’ .
    (3) We all know how chaotic flu vaccination campaign had been last few years . Contentious provision of pharmacies to administer flu vaccines ,delayed supplies and poor government effort to encourage the pubic have dogged previous campaigns. The net phenomenon was the overall uptakes of flu vaccines were significantly reduced . In reality , the public is wanting a Covid 19 vaccine and not necessarily interested in flu ones .
    (4) The logistics for mass administration(practically doubling the amount of qualified patient population) of flu vaccines this year will undoubtedly challenge the principle of social distancing. Many small GP practices have only one entrance in-and-out. How often PPE should be changed remains a conundrum. Without proper education and reassurance, I am anxious many patients would be reluctant to queue up outside surgeries for the jab .
    (5) Typically , like every year , we are talking about these concerns in late July as summer break begins in August. I understand that people are desperate to get away after this plight of Covid lockdown. Politicians would like to see themselves of no exception( though reality tells a different story when we found our ‘poor’ Transport Secretary stuck in quarantine) . There is usually very little political activities in August .I am afraid documentation of these concerns ,particularly in logistics , are to collect dust until September .

    Once our patients (particularly children ) start presenting with cough and cold +/- fever from September, we will have to face the reality of dividing ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ (or red and green) patients once more . Yes , telephone triaging can go so far but not entirely . Reducing incidence of influenza is certainly helpful but I am not holding my breath for a ‘successful’ flu campaign led by the government.
    More than happy someone can prove me wrong.....

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