In every weekly news meeting, I’ve been imploring the team to find out the latest on the flu vaccination programme. After all, it will be the biggest in history and if coadministration with the Covid vaccine goes ahead, the implications for logistics will be huge.
Yet we are now in September and there is still uncertainty. First, we don’t even know if a Covid booster campaign is going ahead – and recent reports are suggesting it is less likely. Yet GPs are having to decide what to do about flu vaccines (and the problems around supplies don’t help).
But in this case, we can’t blame the authorities for the uncertainty. I think it is right that they had been aiming for coadministration (so long as practices who aren’t part of the Covid vaccination programme don’t miss out.)
However, what ministers and the NHS can do is take ownership of this. Because the drive to coadminister has had an effect on GPs’ planning for the flu vaccination service. They can be the ones telling patients the situation, why they might get flu jabs late, or might need to come in for separate flu and Covid jabs. The Prime Minister seems to have given up on the televised Covid briefings, which would be a perfect way of communicating this to the public.
Instead, it seems as though it will be left to GPs to communicate with their patients. But the GP-patient relationship has been tested in recent months. The drip drip of stories about general practice being closed has become the mainstream narrative and some patients will no doubt mean that delays around flu (as well as the blood test fiasco) will be blamed on GPs by some.
As I argued last week, health managers haven’t stood up for GPs as much as they could have done. But it doesn’t need to be like this. The pandemic has changed healthcare in so many ways, whether it is remote consultations or vaccinations, and it shouldn’t be up to GPs to have to make this case.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org