A ‘long-term NHS vaccination service’ is now under development, NHS England documents have revealed.
In January, the health secretary told MPs that a ‘national vaccination service’ is needed to ensure GPs are not asked to stop routine care again, as they did during the Covid vaccination programme.
Controversially, he also suggested the service could cover ‘other vaccines’ as well as Covid jabs – potentially representing a huge shake-up to GP funding.
At the time, he said the elective recovery plan would set out further details, but there was no sign of these when the plan was finally published.
Now new NHS England board papers, published on 19 May, revealed that the development of a vaccination service ‘has commenced’, suggesting that it would include ‘alignment and co-administration’ of vaccines.
The document said: ‘Opportunities for alignment and co-administration including catch up across all our vaccination programmes continues and the development of a long-term NHS Vaccination service has commenced.’
Details were scant and it remains unclear who will staff the service and which vaccinations it will cover.
But the papers added that NHS England is working with NHS Digital and NHS X to ‘design a vision and a future operating model that works across Covid-19, flu and wider routine immunisations’ for the ‘longer term’.
The papers also said a campaign will launch in the next three months to increase uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, amid a measles surge.
And they said that work ‘continues to increase uptake of the [Covid] vaccination offer by pregnant women, non-age based high-risk cohorts’ as well as on ‘increasing confidence in under-served communities like African and Black Caribbean as well as Pakistani communities to maximise uptake’.
It comes as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) yesterday issued an interim recommendation that certain at-risk groups should receive another Covid booster vaccine in the autumn.
The advice said the autumn booster would cover ‘more vulnerable adults’ alongside frontline healthcare workers to maintain their protection over the winter against Covid.
It remains unclear who will deliver the programme and what involvement GP practices will have, as the PCN enhanced service is due to expire in September.
Last month it was revealed that stricter targets targets would see a number of GP practices lose tens of thousands in income from child immunisations.