GPs are ‘actively encouraged’ to pool flu vaccines between practices to enable co-administration with the Covid vaccine at a PCN grouping level, NHS England have said.
In guidance released on 1 July, NHS England suggested that the Covid vaccines will continue to take place at PCN group level, who will also be providing the flu vaccine.
It also said that it is setting up pilots to ‘make every contact count’ by offering health checks, such as blood pressure and AF, at the same time as vaccine appointments.
The letter provided more details around the Covid booster vaccination programme, which is set to run 6 September and 17 December 2021, including suggested limits on the number of vaccinations general practice should be providing.
NHS England intends for providers to deliver the Covid vaccine alongside flu vaccines, but there will be flexibility based as further studies report throughout the summer.
The letter said: ‘Co-administering flu and COVID-19 vaccines in the same appointment will allow more efficient use of resources and a better service for patients, as well as potentially helping to improve uptake of both vaccines.
‘This will only be possible once the final results of the relevant clinical trials are published (expected later this summer), and where supply, regulation, and alignment of cohorts allows, particularly in primary care.’
If these results are positive, then co-administration will take place in trusts, care homes and for housebound patients.
The letter added: ‘We will actively enable and encourage co-administration in all other settings where possible…. by seeking flexibility to pool flu vaccine between practices, adding additional [community pharmacy] sites that can deliver flu vaccination to the Covid-19 vaccine supply network, and providing a tech and data infrastructure that is interoperable between the two programmes.’
NHS England said that it wants to implement a ‘make every contact count’ approach to the vaccination programme: ‘This means building in the offer – where practical and appropriate – for those attending vaccination clinics to also have other health checks, such as blood pressure or atrial fibrillation checks.’
NHS England also said that there will be staff available. The letter said: ‘We expect providers will be able to access centrally sourced workforce for Phase 3, including non-registered trained vaccinators through the lead employer model, using the national protocol as appropriate and national agreements with volunteering organisations.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: ‘It’s positive that the JCVI is already discussing administering Covid booster jabs during the same appointment as flu vaccines, but crucially, GP teams must be able to do this within their own practice buildings if they wish – which has not always been the case for Covid vaccines.
‘This would allow patients to be vaccinated at their local practice as they are used to for their flu jabs each year, while also reducing admin, workload and bureaucracy for staff, while limiting the impact on other GP services that are just as important.’