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JCVI criticises lack of public health experience in NHS England local area teams

The Government’s advisory panel on immunisation has complained to the Department of Health that some local area teams set up in April as part of the NHS reforms are lacking sufficient staff and experience to cope with challenges in public health.

Members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have raised concerns that large numbers of immunisation posts remain unfilled in NHS England’s local area teams, with some areas ill-equipped to provide immunisation services.

The panel also described poor communication between NHS and public health bodies and delays in setting up contracts for some services.

Draft minutes from the JCVI’s June meeting state: ‘A number of members raised concerns about aspects of the transition to the reformed NHS that remained yet to be resolved, including: the mechanisms for circulating important communications quickly to all relevant parts of the health and public health system; the slow pace of putting contracts in place for some services, insufficiently developed local organisation in some areas to provide immunisation services; the numbers of immunisation-related positions that remain unfilled in area teams; and the current insufficient numbers of trained experienced staff in some areas.’

Public health experts and GP leaders have previously raised concerns with Pulse that fragmentation of established public health networks has hampered the recent MMR catch-up campaign.

The JCVI was informed by DH representatives that ‘much work had been done to resolve these issues’ and although more work was needed, ‘the implementation of new immunisation programmes was on track and the response to the measles situation had been swift, albeit the communications about the MMR vaccine catch-up campaign had been slower than ideal’.

Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation