C-19 vac autumn booster programme

Key point summary

  • The COVID-19 vaccination draft service specification to support provision of a booster programme in the autumn has been published by NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I);
  • The service will be commissioned as a National Enhanced Service (NES)*, with community pharmacy contractors being selected locally to provide the service to meet population needs;
  • The service will be supported by national Patient Group Directions and national protocols which will be published in due course;
  • The service is planned to commence on Thursday 1st September 2022;
  • A reduced item of service fee will be paid (compared to the current vaccination programme);
  • Contractors wishing to provide the service will need to consider the economic and logistical aspects of the service, then complete an expression of interest;
  • Contractors already providing the COVID-19 vaccination service will also be required to express an interest in continuing to provide the vaccination service; and
  • Expressions of interest need to be submitted and the submission portal is now open.

NHSE&I has today (30th June 2022), published the draft service specification for the 2022/23 Community Pharmacy National Enhanced Service COVID-19 vaccination programme (phase 5).

Publication of this document formally starts the countdown to the commencement of the autumn booster vaccination programme on Thursday 1st September 2022. It also marks the start of the application process for contractors who would like to be commissioned as a vaccination site for this coming vaccination phase.

Selection as a local designated site will still be determined by the local NHS team, based on local population need and where contractors can meet the key designation requirements.

Funding

Funding for the service comes from the NHS vaccination budget and is in addition to and outside of pharmacy global sum funding. For the autumn 2022/23 vaccination programme, the item of service fee has been set by NHSE&I at £10.06 per vaccination for all C-19 vaccination providers (with an additional financial supplement of £10 per dose for the vaccination of housebound people).

Funding will also be devolved to Integrated Care Systems to support improvement to access and to help focus on tackling health inequalities. Funding allocations have been designed to reflect key population differences including: size; rurality; ethnicity; and deprivation.

NHSE&I consulted PSNC on the service and confirmed that they were proposing to reduce the service fee (from the current fee of £12.58) to transition the COVID-19 vaccination programme onto a more business as usual footing. Their aim being to bring the service in line with the fees associated with other vaccinations. The new fee brings the service in line with the fee agreed in 2020 with general practice for routine vaccinations as part of their contractual framework.

In discussions with NHSE&I, PSNC highlighted the inflation in all costs being experienced by healthcare providers and made the case for the fee to be increased or as a minimum, remain at the current level. NHSE&I was not willing to increase the funding further or retain the fee at the current level and PSNC was therefore unable to agree to their proposed fee.

Application process

Full information on how contractors can apply to participate in the phase 5 vaccination programme has been published by NHSE&I. This is based on the interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. Contractors that are not currently included in the programme wishing to be considered for provision of the service will need to complete an expression of interest. Contractors already providing the COVID-19 vaccination service who wish to be considered, will need to submit their expression of interest to their NHSE&I Regional Team.

NHSE&I will be holding a webinar for contractors on Monday, 4th July 2022 at 6pm to share further detail about the phase 5 arrangements.

Sign up to the webinar here

All contractors that are currently commissioned to provide COVID-19 vaccinations under the Phase 3 LES, including “paused” sites, that wish for their designated site to continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations from September 2022 should express an interest by 5pm on 14th July 2022.

Contractors that are not currently commissioned but wish to participate in phase 5 should express an interest by 5pm on 20th July 2022.

Commenting on the publication of the service documentation, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services, PSNC said:

“Community pharmacies have already played an amazing role in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines to support the national efforts and the autumn programme will hopefully present an opportunity for more contractors to get involved in providing this important service.

“However, the item of service fee that NHSE&I has determined may discourage some from seeking to provide the service. PSNC is disappointed that NHSE&I have not recognised the increasing costs that contractors are experiencing in providing services when setting the fee for the service.”

Further information on the service will be published on the PSNC website as it becomes available.

*More information about National Enhanced Services

In December 2021, provisions were made within the NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013 for a new type of Enhanced service, the NES. Under this type of service, NHSE&I commissions an Enhanced service that is nationally specified. This requires NHSE&I to consult with PSNC on matters relating to the service specification and remuneration for the service.

This differs from a Local Enhanced Service (LES) that should be locally developed and designed to meet local health needs and for which NHSE&I would consult with Local Pharmaceutical Committees. A NES allows the agreement of standard conditions nationally, while still allowing the flexibility for local decisions to commission the service to meet local population needs, as part of a nationally coordinated programme.