GP practices should prepare to deliver flu jabs to eligible cohorts until February next year, NHS England has said.
The ‘longer-than-usual timescale’ is to ‘ensure all cohorts are covered’, it added.
It comes as practices were last week invited to bid for a £12.2m fund to cover the ‘reasonable additional’ costs of delivering this year’s expanded flu vaccination programme.
A new NHS England flu programme FAQ document, published on Friday, said practices with concerns about capacity should discuss this with their CCG or ask their PCN for support.
It added: ‘This season, GP practices and pharmacies should prepare to offer vaccination over a longer than usual timescale – into January and February 2021 – to ensure all cohorts are covered, particularly as the additional national supply secured by DHSC is being made available in November/December.’
And practices with concerns about vaccine stock should not prioritise the delivery of flu jabs but ensure they achieve uptake among all eligible cohorts, NHS England added.
One of the questions in the FAQ document said: ‘I am worried that I will not be able to access sufficient vaccine to achieve the target uptake rates in all of the eligible groups – should I prioritise the vaccination of patient cohorts?’
NHS England answered that practices should ‘prioritise your available stock to focus on achieving maximum uptake of the flu vaccine in existing eligible groups’.
It added: ‘There is sufficient vaccine available nationally to vaccinate all eligible cohorts.’
The document added that while the national call and recall service will contact the over 50s once the cohort becomes eligible from November – but subject to vaccine supply – practices are ‘strongly encouraged’ to also contact them.
It said: ‘The national Call and Recall service will contact all patients in the 50-64 cohort (who do not fall into any of the at-risk categories above) to notify them they are eligible for a vaccination once it is confirmed that the programme has been extended to this group.
‘While practices are not contractually obliged to offer call and recall for this group, they are strongly encouraged to contact eligible patients in this cohort and invite them for vaccination at the point they become eligible.’
Meanwhile, NHS England said that the flu DES specifications have been updated to say that practices should update patients records either on the day the jab is delivered or the next working day.
This includes when a practice is notified that their registered patient has been vaccinated by another provider such as a community pharmacy, school, maternity or outpatient services, it added.
However, it said that ‘work is underway to facilitate the automatic flow of records of vaccinations carried out by other providers into the GP practice record, which should mean there is no increase in workload’.
The document added that patients vaccinated in other settings will be included in practices’ QOF achievement calculations ‘so long as they are recorded appropriately in the patient record’.
But NHS England will provide practices with ‘no income protection’ to mitigate the expansion of delivery by other providers.
It said that this year’s additional cohorts and increased coverage in general practice are ‘expected to outweigh any opportunistic vaccination carried out by acute trusts’.
It comes as the Government last week announced that ‘millions’ more doses of flu vaccine are to be delivered after new laws have enabled the distribution of a yet-to-be-licensed vaccine.
And from last week, GPs in England were able to start placing orders for additional flu vaccines from the Government’s central stock – although they were warned not to use it to ‘plug temporary shortfalls’.
The Government is targeting 30 million people in this year’s expanded flu vaccination campaign, with a larger number of patients having been made eligible for free flu jabs.