Only six-in-10 GP practice staff have received their flu jab in the first month of the campaign, new data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has shown.
The figures – collected across September and published yesterday (28 October) – showed that 61% of frontline health worker staff in general practices in England had received the vaccine.
However, the data also revealed a far higher uptake rate for second doses of the Covid vaccine at 91%, while uptake for the booster shot stood at 51%, in line with the wider national rate.
Ahead of the programme, NHS England had told practices to co-administer the flu and Covid vaccines where possible.
But, speaking to Management in Practice, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, noted that some supply delays had ‘meant that administration of the two have had to be separated’.
Early in September, practices began cancelling thousands of flu vaccine appointments after a delay of up to two weeks on deliveries of flu vaccine stock.
Despite this, that vaccines minister had said that delivery issues would not delay the overall flu vaccination programme ‘at all’.
Dr McCay also said: ‘Where uptake needs to increase, leaders are working with their teams ensuring they are fully supported.’
She added that making Covid vaccination mandatory for frontline staff ‘could have its advantages’ but the a full risk assessment featuring timeframes and impact on staff retention should be completed first.
Staffing levels will be ‘incredibly important as we prepare to enter what will likely be one of the NHS’ most challenging winters ever,’ she said.
Last month, Labour called on the Government to publish an NHS rescue plan to ensure staff are able to deal with the anticipated winter pressures, after finding patients are routinely waiting over 18 weeks for treatment.
Just two weeks ago, NHSE announced a winter funding package of £250m, attached to a series of targets that ‘will penalise practices’.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said ‘the package as a whole offers very little’, adding that it shows the Government is ‘completely out of touch with the scale of the crisis’ as GPs face ‘the worst winter for decades’.