GP practices will be paid for flu jabs administered in September despite the change of timing to the adult flu and Covid vaccination programmes, a letter from NHS England has said.
The letter sent today to practices, PCNs and ICBs has confirmed that the flu and Covid-19 campaigns will begin on 7 October for most eligible adult cohorts, having been delayed from September 1.
Vaccinations should start on 2 October for care home residents and care home staff.
And flu vaccinations for 2 to 3-year-olds, school-age children and children in clinical risk groups must start from 1 September ‘or as early as possible after the vaccine becomes available’. (see also box below on timings).
The letter from Steve Russell, national director for vaccinations and screening, NHS England said: ‘We ask that both flu and Covid-19 vaccinations for adults commence in October and are preparing to offer the most up-to-date Covid-19 vaccine as the predominant vaccine in Autumn.’
It goes on to state that while payment for vaccinations is usually only made after the official start date of the service, NHS England understands ‘that some firm commitments and appointments have already been made.
‘So, where this is the case and the patient wishes to receive flu vaccination in September, NHS England will permit payment claims to be submitted,’ it said.
Explaining the change to the timing of the programmes, Mr Russell explained it was to maximise protection for patients during the winter months. He said: ‘Vaccination is an essential part of protecting the public and staff over the colder months. The approach being taken to timing and co-administration maximises clinical protection, and therefore the resilience of health and care services, over the later winter months when flu and Covid-19 are most likely to be prevalent.’
He also added that: ‘By supporting greater levels of co-administration of vaccines we also collectively have an opportunity to achieve greater efficiency in delivery for providers at what we know is already a busy time of year.’
The age cohorts for flu and Covid-19 vaccinations have been aligned to make co-administration easier – all those who turn 65 years by 31 March 2024 are eligible for both vaccinations.
The National Booking Service will be open for participating sites to post vaccination appointments from 25 September. It will go live to the public on 2 October in readiness for 7 October. Patients will be able to book joint flu and Covid-19 appointments.
Finally, NHS England said the Covid-19 vaccine for Autumn Winter 2023/24 will be confirmed shortly and that ‘there are no supply constraints’.
‘As with previous campaigns, supply will be made available at least 1 week before the commencement of the campaign’ it said.
Yesterday, the BMA criticised the Government for not being clear about the timing of the vaccination campaigns and ‘causing widespread confusion and potentially putting some patients at unnecessary risk’.