NHS England has invited GP practices to share their views on plans for a new national vaccination strategy, saying it expects Covid jabs to become a ‘seasonal service’.
‘Headline recommendations’ are due to follow in the autumn, after the consultation closes on 30 September.
Government plans for a ‘national vaccination service’ were first revealed in January, when then health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs it was needed to ensure GPs are not asked to stop routine care again, as they did during the Covid vaccination programme.
NHS England documents later revealed that a ‘long-term NHS vaccination service’ is now under development.
GPs have warned about the impact of potentially losing vaccination services, with a ‘serious loss of income’ for practices.
This week, NHS England announced that a ‘market engagement exercise’ has been launched and gave GPs until 30 September to ‘contribute on the future shape of vaccination services’.
‘A market engagement exercise has now been launched. This is an opportunity to share your views on what is working well and what could be improved to maximise uptake of vaccinations, reduce variation, and continue to protect people and their families.’
The questionnaire, published on a procurement portal, set out a ‘draft vision for a future NHS vaccination strategy’ that aims to build on ‘the success of and the learning from our existing covid, flu and routine immunisation programmes’.
It said: ‘NHS England is seeking engagement from the market to inform the future shape of vaccination services and identify potential opportunities to integrate the Covid-19 vaccination programme with other NHS-delivered immunisations.
‘In addition, NHS England has responsibility for a wider set of immunisation programmes and, building on lessons from Covid-19 vaccination delivery, is now taking this opportunity to consider the future strategy for the delivery of all vaccinations.’
The document, listed under buyer NHS Arden and Greater East Midlands Commissioning Support Unit on behalf of NHS England, said this comes as it anticipates that Covid vaccinations ‘will move towards a seasonal service’ over the ‘coming months’.
It added: ‘Over the longer term, we must build on the success of routine immunisation programmes, drawing on national and international learning to further improve our approach and our reach into under-served communities.’
The draft strategy included aims to:
- Improve uptake and coverage, reducing variation
- Address health inequalities relating to vaccine uptake
- Make ‘every contact with an individual count’, such as co-administering vaccines, co-promoting other vaccination programmes and ‘encouraging wider health and wellbeing interventions’
- Have clinicians ‘across primary and secondary care routinely use other healthcare interventions as a route into promoting vaccination’
- Use ‘a range of flexible delivery models that meet the needs of communities and minimise impact on other services
- Support ‘local systems to build sustainable, responsive, NHS vaccination provision’ delivered by ‘an agile, efficient and trained workforce that reflects the communities it serves’
It added that while the new framework ‘should provide national infrastructure and enablers where it makes sense to do so’, it should also ‘support local innovation in delivery’ – backed by a ‘payment approach that offers best value for the NHS overall’.
The document said: ‘We will produce headline recommendations in autumn 2022 to enable us to put the building blocks in place for the potential implementation of some changes in or from 2023/24.
‘Some parts of the model may take longer to implement, but for some changes that have a strong evidence base and widespread agreement we may be able to start making improvements earlier.’
It added that it may ‘test new approaches in specific systems or regions’ and that the process will ‘inform wider discussions’ about the future role of ICBs in the commissioning of NHS vaccination programmes.
Last month, it was revealed that the new national vaccination service could launch as early as next year, thanks to an advert posted on a Government procurement portal.
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