Further details on the national flu immunisation programme announced

Further details on the national flu immunisation programme announced

August 5, 2020

Further to the Annual flu letter published on the 14th May 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE) and, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have jointly published a second letter to provide further information on the national flu immunisation programme for 2020/21.  

The letter highlights the risk of possible co-circulation of COVID-19 and flu this winter. As a result, it reinforces the message that the vaccination programme will be essential to reduce pressure on the health and social care system this winter. 

Contractors are advised to read the national flu immunisation programme update letter in full, but a summary of the information is provided below. 

Eligible groups

In line with the announcement to widen the eligible cohorts on the 24th July 2020, and subject to contractual negotiations, the additional groups to be included in the eligibility criteria for 2020/21 are: 

  • household contacts of those on the NHS Shielded Patient List; 
  • children of Year 7 age in secondary schools (to be provided through the schools’ programme and General Practice only); 
  • health and social care workers employed through Direct Payment (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants, to deliver domiciliary care to patients and service users; and 
  • in a phased approach from November and December, the 50-64-year-old age group. (Note, this will be subject to vaccine supply levels.) 

Community pharmacies will also be able to vaccinate both residential care/nursing home residents and staff in the home setting in a single visit to increase uptake rates and offer further protection to this vulnerable group of patients. 

Increasing uptake

The Government wants to achieve a minimum 75% uptake across all eligible groups to protect the health of those who are vulnerable to hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 by ensuring they do not get flu. 

As part of this, providers are encouraged to put plans in place to try and increase provision amongst those living in the most deprived areas and from BAME communities, as well as ensuring equality of access. NHSE&I is also developing a national call and recall service to help ensure that all eligible patients are encouraged to get the vaccination. 

All frontline health and social care workers are reminded that they should have a flu vaccine this season to protect both themselves and their patients. The inclusion of health and social care workers employed through Direct Payment (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets further expands the support NHSE&I is providing to facilitate the vaccination of social care and hospice workers. 

To support the increased workload, key stakeholders and the public will be consulted on options to expand the professions able to administer vaccinations. 

DHSC has also procured additional national supply of the adult vaccine and will issue guidance in September on how and when this can be accessed by those providers that need it. 

Providing vaccinations during the pandemic

Providers will need to keep up-to-date with the latest Government guidance to help reassure patients that appropriate measures are in place to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

The letter outlines a range of different ways to consider delivering flu vaccinations this season, which are in line with PSNC Briefing 023/20: Early guidance on the 2020/21 Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service. 

A summary of the confirmed flexibilities for community pharmacy will be published separately.  

Communications and Marketing

A major new public facing marketing campaign to encourage take up amongst eligible groups for the free flu vaccine is due to launch in October. More detailed plans will be shared as these are developed, but resources will be available to download and order from the PHE Campaign Resource Centre:  https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/

Pharmacy Advanced service documentation

The Directions, service specification and Patient Group Direction for the Community Pharmacy Flu Vaccination Advanced Service 2020/21 will be published in due course; PSNC will inform contractors once these are available through its usual communication channels. 

Read the national flu immunisation programme update letter here

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