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‘GPs were given no notice of this dramatic expansion of the flu scheme’

vaccination age order

The news that this year’s flu vaccination programe will be expanded to cover 30 million patients, including the over-50s and the households of shielding people, has been met with a variety of reactions from GPs across the country.

Dr Dean Eggitt, chief executive of Doncaster LMC – ‘General practices ordered flu vaccines for their patients during the last flu season and have been given no advance notice of the dramatic expansion in the scheme. 

‘As such, we have had no time to amend orders of stock or change our staffing to meet the needs of the service. 

‘Further still, we do not even know if we will be asked by the Governmennt to help in this scheme.

‘However, general practice is well-placed to respond rapidly and do our very best to save lives and make good on last minute political promises – as we always have and always will.’

Dr John Allingham, medical secretary at Kent LMC – ‘Where are we going to find the capacity to deliver this programme from? What are we going to stop doing to find the space?

‘Flu clinics are already being planned at reduced capacity to manage social distancing and infection control.

‘The vaccine was ordered a year ago by most practices. Has the Government ensured that there is extra in the supply chain, and that it can be delivered to practices on time?’

Dr Steve Kell, partner in Nottinghamshire – ‘Practices are facing a winter filled with workload, financial and workforce uncertainty. Many can’t order more flu vaccines and delays are normal every year. It’s clear we can’t deliver ‘the biggest flu programme ever’ and business as normal. We need the same financial support as Trusts and a clear focus for the winter ahead.

‘It’s concerning that yet again we hear of a change in policy from the media. CCGs and practices need clarity, communication and capacity ASAP.’

Dr Simon Hodes, partner in Watford – ‘There remains a lot of uncertainty about this year’s flu campaign. The expectation is for a higher turnout than previous years, and after months of speculation of a possible expanded ‘at risk groups’ to vaccinate, it seems a decision has now been reached on this.

‘GP practices order vaccines from one year to the next, and this year will be challenging due to social distancing and the need for PPE. Our LMCs and PCNs are trying hard to work out practical solutions with support from our CCG to deliver an unprecedented number of vaccines.’

Dr Mike Smith, partner in St Albans – ‘The plans to expand flu are, on balance, sensible. The implementation is what makes me nervous.

‘Our eligible population has doubled, meaning logistically this will be a challenge, the two main obstacles being the supply of flu jabs in time for winter, and the safety of staff and patients in administering this. I hope NHS England recognises the need for extra resources soon.’ 

Dr Richard Cook, partner in West Sussex – ‘I think it’s good that the scheme has expanded for this year. We are currently working through the logistics of how to safely offer the vaccine, which will be a challenge for many practices.

‘We hope that the supply of vaccines will be able to keep up with demand.’

Dr Yvette Rean, partner in Kent –‘To hear this on BBC News and not from NHS England is flabbergasting. They didn’t mention it in the bulletin they sent out last evening?

‘We have no idea what is going on. We don’t know how we are going to get the vaccines, we need to plan how we are going to give them. Are we going to be provided with more staff, will we have to adapt our surgery to cope with the increased footfall and socially distancing our patients.

‘We cannot have this just ‘dumped’ on us without any consultation with less than eight weeks to go until flu season. Why introduce this measure now? Why are this category suddenly considered higher risk than they have been in previous years? Who has made this decision? The PPE portal is now closed so this will compound our problems. Shall I go on and on….’

Dr Ankit Kant, partner in Norfolk – ‘Genuinely, I am frustrated. Once again, important information has been delivered to the media before GPs. There remains lots of unanswered questions in terms of how will the process work. How will we deliver normal primary care whilst also administering the programme?

‘I’m not even sure if we have enough fridge capacity. Once again, lots of headlines but little substance for us to effectively plan.’

Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE, GP and campaigner in Greater Manchester – ‘The flu jab has been a vital weapon in reducing the number of cases of flu, ensuring that the public’s health is well-protected and not draining the resources of the NHS in dealing with cases that were preventable.

‘Each year, it’s adapted to new strains and is ever-more effective. Although we are looking at averting winter pressure, this move comes very late in the day and it is my hope that the Government matches its promises with increased resources so that we have enough vaccine; can organise accessible flu jab clinics; and reach all of those who truly need us.

‘It’s also essential that certain sections of the public discard ridiculously negative notions around vaccines and get themselves inoculated.’

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chief executive of Cambridgeshire LMC – ‘It’s infuriating!’

Dr Dave Triska, partner in Surrey – ‘I’m worried about the huge impact on primary care- it’s a huge ask normally, let alone expanded and this year.’

Dr Adam Janjua, partner in Lancashire – ‘I welcome an expanded programme, as this will help keep flu rates from spiking. Reduced flu activity will help us have a better chance of identifying possible Covid infections if there is a second wave. Lower levels of flu will also mean that the most vulnerable in our communities are better protected.

‘My only concern is the scale of this project will mean a lot more wore for the whole practice, so needs to be remunerated at sufficient levels. Primary care is under tremendous pressure and we are working flat out – staff would be willing to work extra shifts etc, but this will come at a premium and needs to be paid for by the Government.

‘Extra vaccines will need to be centrally sourced, as we have already placed our orders last year. Not sure how easy it will be to get these delivered at such short notice.’

Dr Farzana Hussain, PCN clinical director in East London – ‘I welcome the fact we want to protect more patients this winter, especially as we don’t know the pathology of Covid and flu on our bodies together.

‘Delivery will be a challenge. Stocks of vaccines and PPE are main concern. And social distancing means they will take longer to deliver. We will use the drive-thru model. Over-50s is after the shielded and their households.’

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