Flu vac: service spec published and new flexibilities agreed

Flu vac: service spec published and new flexibilities agreed

August 28, 2020

Announcement summary:

  • Flu vaccination service specification and national Patient Group Direction (PGD) published
  • Service to commence on Tuesday 1st September 2020
  • PSNC has successfully negotiated key flexibilities to help contractors to offer the service in a COVID-safe way, allowing for vaccinations off-site and outside the consultation room
  • Pharmacies can also now vaccinate care home staff at their place of work
  • PSNC has also secured administrative improvements including a new verbal consent model
  • Funding is still under negotiation – PSNC is pushing hard for an uplift to funding

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have today (28th August 2020) published the service specification for the 2020/21 Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service and the associated national Patient Group Direction (PGD).

These documents, alongside the amendments to the Secretary of State Directions (also signed and published today), formally start the countdown to the commencement of what is expected to be the largest ever community pharmacy flu vaccination programme on Tuesday 1st September 2020.

Flexible approaches to service delivery agreed

PSNC has successfully negotiated a range of changes to the service requirements to reduce the burden on contractors and to help them provide the service at a greater scale than before and in a COVID-safe manner.

Agreement has now been reached with NHSE&I and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on the introduction of the following flexibilities and approaches into the 2020/21 Flu Vaccination Service:

  • Vaccination in the pharmacy, outside the consultation room, but elsewhere within the premises, where this supports better social distancing and it can be undertaken in a way which maintains patient safety and confidentiality;
  • Off-site provision, for example in locations that may provide greater space for patients, greater ability to manage patient flow to maintain social distancing and better waiting facilities in the event of poor weather. The sites could include:
    • Marquees outside the pharmacy premises;
    • Local village, town or community halls;
    • Church halls, temples or mosques;
    • Car parks, including the options of drive-up or drive-thru services similar to COVID-19 testing sites; and
    • Sports halls / Stadiums.
  • Care homes – contractors were already able to vaccinate patients in care homes and will now also be able to vaccinate care home staff at their place of work.

The existing flexibility which allows vaccination of patients in their own homes will continue.

Work is also ongoing at DHSC to seek an amendment to the Regulations to allow pharmacies to focus solely on the provision of flu vaccinations during a proportion of their opening hours. An update on this will be provided in due course if it is possible for the Regulations to be amended.

In addition to the above flexibilities, we have agreed with NHSE&I and DHSC:

  • the removal of the need to submit a completed copy of the Notification of intent to provide off-site NHS flu vaccinations to the regional NHSE&I team before vaccinating patients in their own home or a care home;
  • when providing flu vaccinations at a care home, removal of the need to have notified the patient’s general practice in advance of vaccination; and
  • the introduction of a verbal consent model, with the patient’s consent being noted in the clinical record, so a signed consent record is no longer mandatory.

Information to follow on extension of the patient cohorts

The Government has previously announced that, this year, flu vaccination will be offered to people aged 50 to 64 years. However, people in this age group (unless they are already eligible for vaccination due to being in a clinical-risk group) cannot be vaccinated under the NHS service until an announcement is made by NHSE&I, probably in November or December.

The decision on commencing vaccination of this group of patients will be informed by the availability of vaccine and progress made with vaccinating the other target groups. This approach is being taken to ensure that those who are most at risk from flu are vaccinated first.

DHSC have centrally purchased additional flu vaccines for the season, to ensure there will be sufficient stock available to pharmacies and general practices to vaccinate the increased cohort of eligible patients. An announcement on how the centrally procured stock will be distributed will be made in due course.

Funding

While contractors will be able to commence provision of the service on Tuesday 1st September 2020, our negotiations with DHSC and NHSE&I on the funding for the service are still ongoing. We hope a conclusion to these discussions will be reached early next week, following which we will be able to provide an update to contractors.

Commenting on the agreement of the service requirements, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services, PSNC said:

“This year the flu vaccination service is going to be different for all involved and pharmacy contractors and their teams need to consider which options will suit them and their patients to find the best ways in which to provide the service.

“PSNC is pleased to have been able to agree a range of new flexibilities which will hopefully help pharmacy teams to achieve significant growth in the number of vaccinations administered, in line with the aspirations of the Government and NHS. The move to a verbal consent model is also a significant administrative improvement for pharmacies and will support the safe delivery of this service in the pandemic.

“It is frustrating that we are not able to confirm the funding details for the service so close to its launch, but PSNC believes that continuing to push HM Government and the NHS to provide the right funding for contractors is the right thing to do.”

Further details on the service and guidance

On 3rd July 2020, PSNC published a Briefing for contractors which provided early guidance on the 2020/21 Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service.

An updated briefing replaces our July 2020 guidance, with full information on the service requirements, new flexibilities and the practical issues that contractors need to consider before using them.

Download the PSNC Briefing on the 2020/21 Flu Vaccination Service.

Further information on the service, guidance and resources can be found via our Flu Vaccination Hub page.



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