GPs will be able to vaccinate patients against flu who are not registered with their practice this year in a ‘key’ change to the service announced by NHS England.
Unveiling the 2021/22 flu vaccination enhanced service specification for GP practices last night, NHS England said it was inviting ‘all practices’ to opt in to the programme over the next two weeks.
The document suggests a national supply of flu vaccine could become available, noting ‘GP practices may also be able to vaccinate eligible patients aged 18 years and over using vaccines ordered and supplied centrally’ – despite previous indications this would not be possible.
GP practices will continue to vaccinate two- and three- year-old children against flu this year, it adds in an accompanying service specification.
In recent months GPs have been ‘actively encouraged’ by NHS England to pool flu vaccines between practices to enable possible co-administration with the Covid vaccine at a PCN grouping level.
This year’s specification for vaccinating adults reiterates that a GP practice which is a member of a PCN grouping ‘may choose to work together with the GP practices in that PCN grouping to deliver [flu] vaccinations in accordance with this ES’.
A GP practice ‘may require the ability to sub-contract the delivery of the required clinical services to another GP practice in the PCN grouping or another party,’ it adds.
If a patient is given their flu vaccine by a provider that is not their registered GP practice and the record is not automatically updated electronically then ‘the GP practice must update the patient records on the same day that the vaccine is administered or on the day that notification is received from the other provider’, the document later adds.
GP practices are advised to ‘continue as usual’ with plans for the flu vaccine programme this autumn, said the specification.
However, if co-administration with the Covid vaccine is recommended by the JCVI then ‘where possible…vaccines should be given at the same time’, it reiterated.
The two specifications – covering adults and children – are effective from 1 September 2021 to 31 March 2022.
GP practices will have until the end of 16 August to sign up to the enhanced services, which state a £10.06 item-of-service fee will be paid for each vaccination given.
In an NHS England bulletin to GPs sent last night, NHS England said: ‘The service specifications for 2021/22 are largely based on the 2020/21 flu service specifications, with the exception that the seasonal influenza vaccination programme specification (covering adults and at-risk groups) will be commissioned as an enhanced service this year to enable greater responsiveness to any subsequent JCVI advice or Government policy.
‘The childhood seasonal influenza vaccination programme 2021/22 was previously commissioned as an enhanced service. The enhanced services will be offered to all GP practices providing essential services and will not be capable of amendment by CCGs.’
It added: ‘A further key change to the seasonal influenza vaccination programme 2021/22 enhanced service specification is that for this season, practices will be able to vaccinate various cohorts of patients that are not registered with the practice.’
NHS England recently admitted patients may choose to get their flu vaccination through a ‘different provider’ than their GP this year if the Covid booster programme includes co-administration of the two jabs.
The Government is aiming for a record-sized flu vaccination programme, with a target 35 million people being offered the jab.
Jabs will be offered to patients aged 50-64 – who were invited last year for the first time – as well as all secondary school students, creating a significant expansion for the 2021/22 programme.
It comes after the vast majority of PCN leaders do not want any new network service specifications to be implemented this year.