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Co-administering Covid and flu should not be ‘underestimated’

by Jess Hacker
17 September 2021

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The work involved in providing both the Covid booster and flu campaigns should not be underestimated, NHS England has been told after publishing key details on the delivery of the programme.

In a letter sent to practices (15 September), NHSE instructed surgeries to follow the JCVI guidance which suggests the two jabs should be co-administered where ‘operationally expedient’.

It specified in particular that systems should look to co-administer in ‘any instances’ that might improve patient experience, and reduces administrative burdens or health inequalities.

However, co-administering should not mean delaying an influenza jab, it said. In instances where a ‘short’ delay would ensure more people get both shots, practices ‘should use their discretion’.

Commenting on the booster programme’s launch, Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation, said that primary care teams have been ‘going above and beyond’ to prepare for the programme after having provided 28 million appointments in July.

‘However, we shouldn’t underestimate the additional work involved and we must acknowledge the time and investment it will take to deliver alongside the flu vaccination programme,’ she said.

‘This is as well as meeting an increasing demand for their services as well as managing patients waiting for secondary care.’

Throughout the initial phases of the Covid vaccine campaign, three-quarters of practice staff reported experiencing verbal abuse from patients.

Speaking to Management in Practice, Ms Rankine said: ‘The Covid-19 booster campaign, jabs for 12- to 15-year-olds and flu vaccination campaigns will add to this pressure but we know that primary care teams will continue to step up and deliver for their patients and the public.’

She added: ‘However, we are increasingly hearing worrying reports of physical and verbal abuse aimed at hardworking primary care teams. This is having a devastating effect on those staff who are going above and beyond to make sure their patients get the help they need. We need to protect our workforce to ensure that they are in the best position possible to manage the different demands on them over the coming months.’

Earlier this week, GP Dr Ed Pooley told Management in Practice that if patients become agitated or unsettled over their booster or flu shot, those emotions may ‘spill over unfortunately into anger and aggression’.

Prioritise offering Covid boosters to care home patients

Sites were also told to ‘prioritise care homes for older adult residents and care home staff’ by 1 November, as part of a first priority cohort.

It added that it anticipates the National Booking System will be open for booking booster appointments from Monday (20 September), with first national invitations issued ‘based on available capacity’ from the same date.

The guidance also said:

  • NHS England will issue further advice on delivering half doses of the Moderna vaccine but does not expect to go live with this immediately
  • There are no supply constraints and PCN-led sites will be able to order vaccine supply as needed through the Foundry ordering platform
  • Point of care systems have been updated so that booster vaccines can be recorded
  • Until the patient group direction (PGD) and national protocol have been updated – expected by 21 September and ‘shortly after’ respectively – only sites with a prescriber on site can deliver booster jabs
  • Hospital-led sites will be the ‘default provider’ of booster jabs for eligible health and social care staff although local systems ‘may have developed alternative local arrangements’ with GP-led sites
  • Hospital hubs will also deliver opportunistic booster vaccines to inpatients and outpatients.

This comes after the UK’s chief medical officers (CMOs) recommended that all children aged 12-15 receive a first dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine, with a target set to finish vaccinating by the October half-term break.