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Flu and Covid vaccination programmes brought forward


Flu and Covid vaccination programmes brought forward

By Richard Thomas

The flu and Covid-19 autumn booster programme will now start on September 11 after yet another change of thinking by NHS England.

Due to the risks presented to vulnerable patients by the new BA.2.86 Covid variant, the NHS has been asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to bring the vaccination programme forward and to accelerate delivery to vaccinate eligible people more quickly. Ministers would like as many people as possible to have been vaccinated by the end of October.

Additional payments will be made for vaccinations administered in September and October. The Expression of Interest process for pharmacies (which was due to close on August 30) will remain open until 5pm on Monday September 4.

Revised timings

For community pharmacies providing Covid vaccinations:

  • From September 11, vaccination for care home residents and housebound patients should start, coordinated by integrated care systems. NHS England wants all residents to be vaccinated before October 22
  • From September 11, Covid vaccinations can commence for those eligible via local booking systems, starting with those who are most at risk, including immunosuppressed patients
  • On September 18, the National Booking System will allow eligible people to book a Covid jab online (using, via the NHS App or by calling 119. National vaccination invitations will be issued to eligible patients from this date.

Wherever possible, patients should be offered a flu vaccination at the same time.

This change in the timings for the vaccination programme supersedes the previous information NHS England issued to pharmacy owners on the provision of flu vaccinations starting in October, unless firm commitments and appointments have already been made. Fu vaccinations can now be offered to eligible patients in September.

Funding changes

Interim financial arrangements have been put in place to recognise the additional administrative, organisational and delivery costs which pharmacy owners will incur.

Pharmacies commissioned to provide Covid vaccinations will now be eligible to claim:

  • An additional acceleration payment of £10 (in addition to the item of service fee) for each Covid vaccination administered to care home residents between September 11 and Sunday October 22
  • A separate one-off additional payment of £200 for each completed care home by 23:59 on Sunday October 22 that is confirmed by the submission of a live time survey no later than 23:59 on Sunday October 29.
  • An additional £5 acceleration payment (in addition to the IoS fee) will be paid for each Covid vaccination administered to eligible people between September 11 and October 31 (excluding care home residents, housebound people and any health and care worker vaccinations commissioned under the NHS Standard Contract).


Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services, Community Pharmacy England, welcomed the news and said that the acceleration payments for early vaccinations will make it more financially viable for some pharmacy owners to take part.

However, he had sharp words for the Government, saying it had been a “shambolic start” to the winter vaccination programme. “It simply isn’t efficient for pharmacies or other providers to work to a seemingly endlessly changing timetable,” said Mr Buxton.

Even though the NHS has extended the deadline for expressions of interest to provide the service, time is now “incredibly tight” for pharmacy teams to prepare for the start of the season, he continued.

“Pharmacies will once again show their adaptability and do their utmost to help with this newly accelerated campaign, but the policy to-ing and fro-ing that we have seen this year must not be repeated,” said Mr Buxton.

Tase Oputu, RPS England chair, added:  “The short notice changes to the start date for the winter vaccination programme have created confusion for pharmacy teams trying to make plans, and for the public. The Government must plan ahead more decisively next year to avoid such uncertainty.”

The NPA welcomed the news, saying it should support pharmacies in delivering a successful service. It will issue additional advice to members shortly.

The trade body last week warned NHS England about potential legal challenges from NPA members arising from a delay to the flu and Covid programmes.

Malcolm Harrison, CCA chief executive, called on the Government to review the resource it puts into the vaccination programmes following the “turbulent” start to this year’s scheme. “It is vital that pharmacies and the public are confident in the plans put in place. There is a need to start planning now for the vaccination programme next year, to ensure that maximum uptake and protection can be achieved.”


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